Ahead on Differential

The blog arm of the Derek Godin Online Media Empire | derekgodin.com

When a friend asks me to recommend them a movie, I never have a title in the chamber and ready to go. Call it choice paralysis: Letterboxd, a favourite website of movie dorks like yours truly, puts the total number of movies in the world at just south of 600,000 and counting. So to help whittle down the list of candidates for my aforementioned friend that totally exists, my answer is usually another question. “Well, what kind of movies do you like?” This helps, but only a little. If my friend says they like science fiction, well, that limits the number of relevant titles to, oh, just a hair above 13,000. This new genre-specific pool is a couple of orders of magnitude smaller that Every Movie Ever Made, but hardly more manageable.

Another example: once upon a time I was on the phone with my mom, and she asked me about westerns. Specifically, she told me that my stepdad was in the mood for a western that evening, and she deferred to my so-called expertise. Surely all that film school book-learning is worth something! So I told her they should watch The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, to some the greatest western ever made

It was the last time she asked me for a film recommendation. This was years ago. They did not like it at all, and I suspect the film's hefty runtime and rambling pace had something to do with it. Maybe I did no favours my hyping to shit out of Sergio Leone's finest hour.

I learned the hard way that helping someone sort out Movie Night is not the time for a flex. Not everyone shares your tastes and your interests, and that's cool. When you're recommending movies to people, there are always going to be swings and misses; you are, after all, two different people with two sets of cinematic pleasure centres. What I'm trying to devise here is a way to keep from striking out, so to speak, and while this method may yield precious few home runs, it'll compensate by delivering way more slap singles into the gap. Sports!

I. Is it short?

I've said it once and I'll say it again: God's runtime is 87 minutes.

I don't want to besmirch the good names of the many excellent epics and exercises in slow cinema that exist, but when I give someone what amounts to pop-culture homework, I want to be respectful of their time. It happened to me more than once that a trusted friend gave me a hearty recommendation only for me to groan at the runtime. Yes, I'm sure Sátántangó is every bit the masterpiece people say it is, but 439 minutes is a steep cliff to climb, especially when I work 5 Sátántangós a week. It doesn't even have to be that extreme: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly's 161 minutes was a deal-breaker for my mom. And you know what? I don't blame her. Two-plus hours is a lot of time to spend with something you might not like.

I think there's something psychologically inviting about a double-digit runtime. The gulf between 99 minutes and 100 minutes is vast. So for the purposes of this method, I'm going to set a runtime limit of 100 minutes. Why 100? While 100 minutes is completely arbitrary, it does fit snugly in between “just over an hour and a half” and “almost two hours.” You can stretch it to 105 if you want a clean hour and three quarters. Remember: this is a recipe, and like any recipe, you can adjust some parts to taste.

II. Is it good?

I absolutely adore the 2010 film Beyond the Black Rainbow. I love its fucked-up sensuousness, its hazy pacing, and its druggy synthesis of 40 years' worth of genre-film brainmelters. I would never in a million years recommend this movie to anyone unless I was 100% sure we were simpatico. Beyond the Black Rainbow is a perfect your-mileage-may-vary movie. There are movies you like that other people scratch their heads at, wondering what all the fuss is about. That's cool.

Now that we've established that something as seemingly simple as “good” is wildly subjective, let's talk about the wisdom of crowds.

Podcaster Merlin Mann has occasionally quipped on his show Reconcilable Differences, and I'm paraphrasing here, “Why would you ever want to watch a three-star movie?” Ignoring the fact that a three-star movie means something different to everyone, I'd argue that the three-star movie fulfills a very specific role in one's media diet. A three-star movie is a competent, unsurprising piece of work that neither arouses nor offends. It is built from stock parts and familiar faces. It is the perfect cure for a hangover on Sunday afternoon. It is the sweatpants of movies, and everyone owns a pair.

Small sidebar: the burden of masterpieces is very real. If you keep insisting to your friends that something is a masterpiece, there's bound to be a pushback, either explicit or implicit. There's also a strange pressure to like movies that are considered canonical, even though you may not like them at all. The fact that something is considered great might, counterintuitively, be a turn-off to some.

Since the point of this exercise is to create a high-floor approach to recommendations, I've decided to set the minimum “quality” threshold for this method of recommendation at an average rating of 3/5 on Letterboxd. As with the runtime, you can adjust this threshold as needed. If a large spread of people think something is at least “good,” it makes for a solid baseline of agreeability.

III. Is it secret?

I deliberately wanted to avoid the word “obscure” for this section because of the film-snob vibe that word can connote, but we do want to privilege movie that are underseen. Why? The 6,000-ish films that make up the 1% of the most popular films on Earth are in the cultural ether. Your Aunt Brenda probably knows that Parasite (741,000+ ratings on Letterboxd at time of writing) exists already in some capacity. So for that reason, this method caps popularity at 10,000 ratings on Letterboxd. Why 10,000? Again, arbitrary. Plus, it looks good next to “100 minutes.”

If I really wanted to commit to using Parasite as my yardstick, having my popularity cap be 1% of the people who've seen the most popular film on Letterboxd has a bit of poetry to it, but honestly, I just like big round numbers. Plus, it's not inconceivable that Parasite cracks a million ratings at some point future. But this method is more about vibes than stats, and other movies with ~10,000 ratings fit the vibe I'm going for: something about as seen as John Boorman's Point Blank or Walter Hill's The Driver.

Part of recommending a film to someone is making the effort of combing the stacks for them, not just the shelves in the front. This may or may not be true for the specific person coming to you for a recommendation, but for our purposes, you're just playing the odds. My strawman cinephile, whether they've seen Pulp Fiction or not, very likely has heard of it. There's a good chance they'll get there by themselves, since the 1% or movies are the ones we tend to absorb by cultural osmosis anyways (how many people get to Kubrick through The Simpsons, or Scarface through hip hop). They've probably heard of every Quentin Tarantino film. As much as I love those movies, I don't think QT needs the help. People can and do get there by themselves. Miami Blues needs the help. Deep Cover does too (even though, at 107 minutes, it falls just a bit outside the purview of this post).

Plus who doesn't love a diamond in the rough? Nothing beats having a new favourite thing that you didn't even know existed the day before. By using this method, hopefully you'll find some hidden gems of your own. Here's a list of 20 of them to get you started.

#movies

The Big Board.

You know how I know I have great friends? Because they didn't mind being conned into doing another one of these movie drafts.

Last time, we drafted movies from 2009. This time, in honour of my birthday, we drafted movies from my birth year, 1988.

A refresher of the rules:

  • The movie's year of released had to be listed as 1988 on IMDb
  • At the end of the draft, each player must have one movie from each of these seven categories
    • Blockbuster (for this one, movies with >$100m adjusted domestic gross were eligible for this category)
    • Drama
    • Action/Comedy
    • Sci Fi/Fantasy/Horror
    • Animated/Foreign Language
    • Sequel/Prequel/Reboot/Remake
    • Wild Card (any film can be a Wild Card)

As is tradition, the draft order was set randomly and picks were made serpentine-style. At the end of the night, here's what our six teams looked like.

  • Person A: Die Hard, The Last Temptation of Christ, Grave of the Fireflies, Bull Durham, Vampire's Kiss, The Thin Blue Line, The Blob
  • Person B: Rain Man, Police Story 2, They Live, The Accused, Willow, Dragons Forever, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
  • Person C: My Neighbor Totoro, A Fish Called Wanda, Coming to America, Dead Ringers, Dangerous Liaisons, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, The Vanishing
  • Person D: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Land Before Time, Bloodsport, Stand and Deliver, Midnight Run, Dead Heat, The Dead Pool
  • Person E: Beetlejuice, The Naked Gun, Cinema Paradiso, Beaches, Child's Play, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Crocodile Dundee II
  • Person F: Mississippi Burning, Akira, Big, Young Guns, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, Red Heat

First things first: everyone brought their A game. This was a much closer draft than the last one. People learned from their biffs in the first one, developed boards and strategies, and the result was a killer performance overall.

I had Die Hard as the first movie off the board, so Person A was 100% justified in taking it first. The rest of their draft is very good; The Thin Blue Line was a great wild card pick, and The Blob is a criminally underrated film and also a great last-round pick. There were rumblings among the Committee that Vampire's Kiss was ineligible because it was only released wide in 1989, but the rules clearly state that the year used to determine the validity of a pick the the year listed on IMDb, which in the case of Vampire's Kiss is, in fact, 1988, since it premiered at Cannes that year. Nice try, anonymous GM!

Could B have gotten Rain Man later? Probably. But, as with Avatar in the 2009 draft, it's hard to argue with the reasoning: this movie was an Oscar juggernaut (four wins, including Best Picture) and the highest-grossing film of 1988. Could they have gotten Police Story 2 later? Again, probably, but I see the reasoning. Sequel/Prequel/Reboot/Remake is always going to be thin, so getting in early is a good move. It also allowed B to score mad style points by having a Jackie Chan double feature on their roster when they picked Sammo Hung's Dragons Forever, which wasn't even on my radar.

C came in hot out of the gate, capitalizing on My Neighbor Totoro, which was 2nd overall in my mock draft, falling to third. C picked crowdpleasers with surgical precision in the first five rounds. But dear reader, I have never been as floored or flabbergasted by a pick than when C took a fucking Gundam movie in the sixth round. It was the right place to have a complete and total curveball, and it just knocked me square on my ass. Char's Counterattack wasn't even in the same galaxy as my board, and I have no choice but to respect the move. Getting the Dutch thriller The Vanishing in the last round as a wild card is quite the coup, too.

D's board has strong “weekend at Dad's” vibes. Dad really likes action movies with manly men committing grievous acts of bodily harm against one another, using their guns, their fists, or both. But there are a couple of tapes there for the kids, too. As far as draft strategy goes, getting Midnight Run in the fifth round is fucking highway robbery. How did stay on the table that long. I can't be sure, but I have a theory: most of the GMs in the draft are under 30, no one has cable, and Midnight Run isn't streaming anywhere. A perfect storm for generating a high-value pick.

I think E had a solid draft right up until the end. As I mentioned before, Sequel/Prequel/Reboot/Remake is always going to be a thin category, but surely even horror programmers like Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers or Phantasm II were higher value than the second Crocodile Dundee movie. By their own admission, Crocodile Dundee II was “smooth-brain viewing,” but so's some of that horror schlock I just mentioned. Beaches I get, but Crocodile Dundee II I don't. My suspicion is they wanted to keep it real and only pick movies they've seen, but by their own admission, they've seen “like 100 movies,” so maybe hatedrafting a shitty sequel is a viable way of doing things.

F fooled me. I though they biffed it completely when they drafted Hellraiser II as their SF/F/Horror pick. I even asked them if they were sure. They assured me they knew what they were doing. They did: F went completely off-board and picked the gleefully crass Return of the Killer Tomatoes as their sequel, which while not the steal of the evening (that would be Midnight Run at #28), it was the pick that caused the most hootin' and hollerin'. I don't think F had the best draft, but on the strength of that move and picking Red Heat because like hell we were going to draft an 80s movie year and have no Arnold Schwarzenegger films, they may have had the most fun one.

After the secret ballots were tallied, A and D were declared joint winners. But what do you think? Who won? Who lost?

Here are ten we left on the table:

  • Frantic
  • Hairspray
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space
  • Married to the Mob
  • Mystic Pizza
  • Oliver and Company
  • Scrooged
  • Twins
  • Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
  • Working Girl

#movies #moviedraft

“[...] You hope that some day in the future, some kid will be walking along the beach and find a little piece of green glass that has been worn down by the waves. He'll pick it up and put it in his pocket, take it home and love it. He won't necessarily know why he loves it, but he'll love it. Those are the kind of records that we try to make.”

— Paul Buchanan

via the Sydney Morning Herald

#quotes #music

The final board.

Inspired by the fine folks at the Ringer's Big Picture podcast, I somehow convinced my friends to indulge me and participate in what is likely the dorkiest group activity I have ever suggested: a movie draft.

The goal is simple: create your best possible team of seven movies. There are only two rules: all movies bust the listed as a movie released in the year or the draft (in this case, 2009) on the Internet Movie Database, and by the end of the draft, you need to have one movie in each of the following seven categories:

  • Blockbuster (domestic gross >$100 million)
  • Drama
  • Action/Comedy
  • Science fiction/Fantasy/Horror
  • Animated/Foreign Language
  • Sequel/Prequel/Reboot/Remake
  • Wild Card (any movie can be a Wild Card)

Armed with nothing but their wits, our movie GMs duked it out and picked their movies serpentine-style, as is tradition. Here were the results:

  • Person A: Avatar, Orphan, The Hangover, The Road, Fast & Furious, Dogtooth, Whip It
  • Person B: Star Trek, Coraline, I Love You, Man, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans, Antichrist, Brothers, Up in the Air
  • Person C: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Law Abiding Citizen, Sherlock Holmes, Jennifer's Body, Black Dynamite, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, The Princess and the Frog
  • Person D: Inglourious Basterds, Drag Me to Hell, Fantastic Mr. Fox, In the Loop, A Serious Man, Valhalla Rising, Universal Soldier: Regeneration
  • Person E: Up, Watchmen, Taken1, Zombieland, The Final Destination, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Brüno
  • Person F: District 9, Moon, Crank: High Voltage, Dead Snow, Pandorum, Daybreakers, Redline

Now it's time for me to put on my Mel Kiper hat and break down these drafts.

I think A's only real faux-pas was taking Avatar first. I understand the reasoning: it's the highest-grossing movie of all time, just sitting there. But I don't think this movie has fans. Like, Titanic has fans. Other juggernauts have fans. I don't think I've heard anyone talk about Avatar after that awards season. My point is this: I think A could have gotten Avatar in the third round. With everything else on the board, this was not the way to go. I will note that the rest of their draft is very good: picking up The Hangover in the third was good value, Fast & Furious was as good a sequel there was, and Orphan is a movie that continues to be slept on. If A hadn't picked Avatar first, they probably would have won.

B said they were making their first pick with their heart, and I can't blame them. The Abrahms Star Trek was going to get taken eventually, and they wanted it, so they took it. Now, is that sound draft strategy? Maybe, given that the other people drafting, yours truly incuded, are total fucking nerds. I had Star Trek as a second-round pick, but then again, what do I know. I do know this: B made zero bad picks, including a sneaky/clever Sequel/Prequel/Reboot/Remake pick with Brothers (though I would have slotted Bad Lieutenant there to free up the way-more-open Drama category). All in all, if I'm programming a day of TV, I want B's roster, but I'm making sure to bury Antichrist, a movie I was too chickenshit to finish, deep into the overnight.

I have no clue what the fuck C was doing. The writing was on the wall when they drafted the sixth Harry Potter joint (a) third overall, (b) as their blockbuster when the sequels were already thin. And then they drafted Law Abiding Citizen, a diet Death Wish joint I didn't even consider for my mock list2, in the Top 10. What the fuck. From this point on, C started to get their shit together. After some deliberation, the Committee accepted that Sherlock Holmes qualifies as a reboot, which was a great morale booster for C after being clowed on mercilessly by yours truly for their first two picks. C then followed that up with three more solid picks, four if you're among those who like Parnassus. I wouldn't know, I haven't seen it, and funnily enough, neither has C. Their draft was like watching a kid ride a bike with no training wheels for the first time: an immediate faceplant followed by tenous, tear-streaked wobbling around the block.

D was given a gift, and that was being able to pick Inglourious Basterds fourth overall. I could have sworn this would have been off the board within the first two picks. Shows you what I know. Was D able to capitalize on the best film of 2009 falling into his lap? Well... that's hard to say. Taking Drag Me to Hell ninth overall seems way early for a movie not all that many people seem to like or even remember, but A Serious Man is great value for a fifth-rounder. For better or worse, I think D was playing a different game than everybody else. It's not that the picks were bad, per se. Their picks were too inside-baseball, too eager to play the knowing video store clerk. What exactly are you gunning for if you pick fucking Valhalla Rising and a Universal Soldier movie made in the 21st century? That's not playing to win, that's playing for yourself.

After round two, I was terrified of E's board. Boom, Up. Boom, Watchmen. Two clean chalk picks, in the right categories and everything. Then, a crack in the armor. E picked Taken third, which snuck by the Committee even though it was an invalid pick. Taken would have been another ruthlessly efficient pick had the year of release been correct. Zombieland, good value as a fourth-rounder. But then, the wheels started coming off the war machine: E took The Final Destination as a horror film, which is a more egriegous, more costly version of B's Bad Lieutenant play. At this point in the draft, even okay sequels and reboots were at a premium, while there were still some pretty decent SF/F/H choices on the board. Starting with round five, E didn't so much shoot themselves in the foot as much as empty the whole clip into it. By taking The Final Destination, they fucked themselved into Underworld 3. And Brüno? Well, that's a movie I really don't like. I don't like that schtick. I kind of wish E would have gone for a troll pick instead.

F's board is the one I have the least context for. I think they took Moon at the exact right point, and for my money, I think Crank 2 was the highest-value sequel in play. Smart, small-ball drafting. Then F started balling out and proceeded to fill their board with three mid-budget European genre movies and topped it off with a dollop of high-octane weeb content. And you know what? I respect it. This was the game D was trying to play, but with no pretense. No critic's picks, no Film Twitter touchstones, just slightly-under-the-radar idiosyncrasy. I don't think F won, but they earned my respect as a GM. And much in the same way that I would take B's roster to program a day of TV, if I were tasked with programming a Midnight Madness-style card for a festival, F's roster is the one I want in my corner.

What do you think? Who won this thing?

1 This pick was voided by the Committee because, while it was released in America in 2009, the film is in fact listed as being a 2008 film on IMDb. Tough titties.

2 If this movie would have been made in 1994, it would be awesome.

#movies #moviedraft

The man himself Photo: Shudder

This is a lightly-edited list of king shlockmeister Joe Bob Briggs's advice for budding writers. Like all writing advice, it boils down to “apply ass to chair,” but with a fair bit more Job Bob colour:

  1. The way you become a writer is you WRITE. Every day. No exceptions.
  2. What you write is not important.
  3. Nobody is going to steal your idea.
  4. THERE ARE NO NEW IDEAS. There are only individual expressions of old ideas.
  5. Be honest. It always works.
  6. Don't listen to anybody's opinions about what you write, especially your friends and family. (I don't mean ignore these people. I mean listen to the voice inside you that says "That's good" and "That stinks." It's the only voice that doesn't lie.)
  7. Never be afraid to write something that stinks. The more stinky stuff you put out, the more risks you take. And the more risks you take, the better chance you have of creating something beautiful. No great writer has ever been a wimp.
  8. If you can explain how to write a book, then you don't know how to write one. If you can write a book, then you won't be able to explain how you did it. It's stupid, but it's true.
  9. There are no membership cards or initiation rites for this profession. Anybody with a sheet of paper can do it. So you become a writer on the day you say "I'm a writer." It doesn't matter where your income comes from. The work you take joy from is writing.
  10. Nobody can tell you how to write, but there are certain things you can do to get to a PLACE where you can write. There are three of them: Write every day. Write every day. Write every day.

This is all I know.

Source: JoeBobBriggs.com

#lists #writing

I'm with you up until, like, number seven

I found this in my desk at work and I guarantee you this list is different now.

#movies #lists

The man himself, live in 1973 Photo: Jorge Butehrein

Being the last guy to leave a band before they settle into their consensus “classic” lineup is a rough lot for any musician. Just ask John Rutsey (RIP) or Pete Best. This was also the case with one Tony Kaye (the English musician, not the American History X guy), the founding keyboardist of a little prog rock band from London called Yes.

Kaye, who turns 76 today, recorded three albums with Yes, including my favourite of their records, 1971's The Yes Album. Then he got shitcanned for being reluctant to play any more of these newfangled synthesizers. Kaye's pared-down keyboard sound is part of the reason I enjoy those early Yes albums so much. Not that I dislike the albums Yes made with prog rock enfant terrible/literal wizard Rick Wakeman, far from it. But Kaye was not nearly as flashy as his eventual replacement, and Yes was all about pomp and flash as the 70s soldiered on. Kaye preferred a relatively small set-up of piano and Hammond organ, with some splashes of Moog for colour; for comparison, here is one of the Becaped One's massive rigs. Creative differences, you see.

Kaye was a brilliant rhythm player, and could make his Hammond sound the size of a mountain. He is the groove's bedrock on S-tier prog bangers like “Yours Is No Disgrace.” The only knock against him, so far as I can tell, was that he played for texture and mood in a genre that embraced individual excess and flair, the same flair that led to Yes torpedoing their own god run with the album that typified progressive rock's reach exceeding its grasp (to be fair, this was not Wakeman's fault, but lead singer Jon Anderson's, but that's another story for another time; the capes were mostly just bad optics).

Kaye bounced around in the 70s, recording with a couple of prog supergroups, including Flash (co-founded by another ex-Yes member, Peter Banks) and Badger (a prog band with a strong boogie-rock streak whose first album, 1973's One Live Badger, is a genuine diamond in the rough; check out the track “River”). He'd then join Badfinger, of all bands, before returning to Yes just as they were becoming bona fide pop stars (by this point, he had developed a taste for those aforementioned newfangled synthesizers) and eventually joining them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. He's still busy, playing in a ton of supergroups I've never heard of, which is par for the course for prog lifers. Still, not a bad career arc, all in all, for someone who was fired for not being prog enough.

#music #prog

The GOAT, talking shit

I am back in the swing of things at work, which is great for my livelihood but not so good for my writing. Thankfully, I love writing lists, and since it was both Hayao Miyazaki's birthday (happy 80th to the GOAT) and just another day on the internet (nerds having opinions about Wes Anderson, yours truly included), I wrote up some lists. I love making lists. And I hope you love reading (or arguing with, whichever suits your fancy) them.

Wes Anderson, Ranked

  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel. It took me a long time to admit to myself that not only is it my favourite, but that it's a five-star film.

  2. Moonrise Kingdom. Maybe I just like the cute/funny Wes movies rather than the sad ones.

  3. Rushmore. The first one I saw. For a kid from the sticks, the movies Wes makes might has well have been set on Mars, but that was part of the appeal. What wasn't alien was kick-ass rock music, crushes on people I had no business having crushes on, and, in retrospect, being an annoying precocious asswipe.

  4. The Royal Tenenbaums. Bet you 20 bucks this goes up two spots on rewatch.

  5. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. See above. Might resonate with me more now that I'm over 30.

  6. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Can't help but feel I lowballed this on the first go.

  7. Bottle Rocket. Wes's first is his least quintessential, but I love how shaggy it is. Come back to us, Owen Wilson, all is forgiven.

  8. Isle of Dogs. Uh, well... the dogs are cute? The sushi prep scene is cool? Strong weeb vibes coming off this one.

  9. The Darjeeling Limited. Man, I don't want to talk about this one, this one's kinda of rough. I think it's the only complete misfire in the run.

Top 10 (Paul Thomas,Paul W.S.,Wes) Anderson Films

  1. Boogie Nights. It's not the Great American Novel if there's no dick and no cocaine.

  2. The Grand Budapest Hotel.

  3. Inherent Vice. Up in smoke.

  4. There Will Be Blood. I'm starting to suspect that PTA is attracted to these widescreen American tragedies with mad barons and charlatans and shit in them.

  5. Moonrise Kingdom.

  6. The Master. This is what Joaquin should have gotten his Oscar for. Either this or You Were Never Really Here.

  7. Phantom Thread. Motherfucker really went and named his character "Woodcock," huh.

  8. Rushmore.

  9. The Royal Tenenbaums.

  10. Event Horizon. Hell is outer space.

Hayao Miyazaki: A Tier List

  • N/A: Porco Rosso, Ponyo. I'll get to them eventually, I swear.

  • D tier: Hayao Miyazaki has never made anything less than good and to claim otherwise would be heresy of the highest order.

  • C tier: Castle in the Sky. As with any of these lists, this is subjective, but this is the only one that doesn't, you know, move me.

  • B tier: The Castle of Caglisotro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Howl's Moving Castle. The first one is really fun heist movie, and Howl might be Miyazaki's most phantasmagorical film, and yes, I'm aware Spirited Away is a thing.

  • A tier: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Spirited Away, The Wind Rises. I especially like The Wind Rises, because it's the most politically complex film of the bunch. What does it mean when the thing you love is turned into something that brings hell on Earth?

  • S tier: My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke. Two perfect films, what can I say. Two very different way of communing with nature. Sometimes it comes to you softly, and sometimes it comes to you with a vengeance. Plus Totoro is south of God's Runtime, which as we all know, is 87 minutes.

#movies #lists #listsoflists

Source: Detroit Public Library Digital Collections

In case you couldn't tell with the prior entries about Blaseball or the Cosmic Baseball Association, I've had a lifelong fascination with baseball simulations. I spilled a lot of ink as a kid drawing up roll tables for simple 2d6-based baseball games. Many of these games were not... shall we say, statistically accurate (usually a ton more triples, a ton more reaching base on error, and practically no stolen bases). But they were fun! I sunk a lot of hours in the basement with these dice games, but also other variations: darts baseball (some dartboards have a little baseball game on the verso), coin flip trees, baseball-themed pinball machines from the dollar store, even weird BASEketball-esque hybrid sports. To this personal pantheon I will add what I have called Baccarat Baseball, a rudimentary but fun little baseball sim that plays like One-Handed Solitaire and requires nothing but a pack of cards and a firm grasp of grade-school math.

The core mechanic of the game is flipping two cards, adding the values together, and dropping the tens. Face cards are worth 10. You know, like in Baccarat. Hence the name.

Plate appearances are resolved in up to three different phases: the at-bat, the play, and the hit. Here's the results chart:

  • Phase 1: The At-Bat

    • 0-2: Ball
    • 3-6: Strike
    • 7-9: Ball in play; proceed to Phase 2
  • Phase 2: The Play

    • 0-2: Fly ball, batter is out
    • 3-6: Ground out, batter is out
    • 7-9: Batter is on base; proceed to Phase 3
  • Phase 3: The Hit

    • 0-3: Single, all runners advance one base
    • 4: “Long single” (same as a regular single, only the lead runner advances two bases)
    • 5: Double, all runners advance two bases
    • 6: “Long double” (same as a regular double, only the lead runner advances three bases)
    • 7: Triple, all runners advance three bases
    • 8-9: Home run, everybody scores

Keep pulling cards until there are three outs, then shuffle your deck. Change, rinse, repeat.

An example at-bat

So in this example, our batter took the first pitch for a strike (10+3=13, mod 10), hit the second pitch into play (6+3=9), and ground out (10+5=15, mod 10).

A second example at-bat

In this at-bat, our batter took a ball, then a strike (3+8=11, mod 10; 3+10=13, mod 10) before making contact (10+9=19, mod 10), getting a hit (4+5=9), and making it safe to first (5+8=13, mod 10).

You can make up house rules to account for events unaccounted for: you can add jokers for fielding errors, determine that a matched pair of twos, threes, or fours during an at-bat is stealing second, third, or home, whatever. I have a house rule for determining swinging strikes (a strike where the two drawn cards don't match colour) and looking strikes (a strike where the two drawn cards match colour).

Games are pretty short, clocking in at about 20 minutes, a bit more if, like me, you're a bit more involved with your scorekeeping. Have fun with it, and play ball!

#sports #baseball

  1. Blaseball, the little baseball idle game that could. Watching the community around this game develop and grow was one of the things that brought me the most joy this year. Go Garages!

  2. My favourite Blaseball game of the year was on Season 7, Day 10: a newly-revived Jaylen Hotdogfingers leads my beloved Seattle Garages to a 6-5 12-inning win over the Canada Moist Talkers and their first-ballot Hall of Fame pitcher PolkaDot Patterson. LANG GANG!

  3. Jon Bois had another banner year: the co-founding of the Secret Base imprint, joining Kofie Yeobah in the continuing madness that is Fumble Dimension, a sequel to 17776 called 20020, and of course, a towering directorial achievement in The History of the Seattle Mariners, which he co-wrote with Alex Rubenstein.

  4. Rewatching John Berger's seminal miniseries Ways of Seeing.

  5. The unkillable cultural behemoth known as Jank City, the dollar-store pack Magic: The Gathering draft I hold every six weeks or so. We haven't been to the LGS in a minute, but the event continues in cyberspace.

  6. Finally got a big-ass TV. So many pixels! Naturally, I broke it in with Heat on Blu-ray.

  7. Introducing three local poets to dril's Betsy Ross Museum tweet over post-reading poutines.

  8. Writing 29 capsule reviews of 29 new-to-me albums as part of Gary Suarez's Music Writer Exercise (#MWE). Here's a thread of them.

  9. Parasite winning four Oscars, including Best Picture.

  10. A 42-year-old Zamboni driver named David Ayres coming into a Canes/Leafs game as an emergency goalie and getting the W. He's even got a Hockey Reference page now!

  11. Celebrating 11 years with my lovely partner Steph.

  12. Starview HCT-5808, a weird sci-fi relic from the Laserdisc era that I stumbled upon on YouTube. It's just... stills set to a jazz fusion score. It rules.

  13. All Fantasy Everything, still the podcast I look forward to hearing the most on a weekly basis. Their Sneakers draft is a perfect episode because I don't know shit about sneakers, but these dudes are so funny that it doesn't matter.

  14. The ongoing adventures of my Mastodon instance, laserdisc.party.

  15. Related: #VerseThursday. (Also here.)

  16. Four words: Animal Crossing: New Horizons. A balm in a year where we couldn't get together IRL.

  17. Speaking of New Horizons: Nicky Flowers's mashup of the game's 12pm theme and Nelly's "Country Grammar (Hot Shit)."

  18. Fleet Foxes' Shore, my absolute favourite record of the year. It's a brilliant synthesis of the cinematic folk and jazzbo accents present on both Helplessness Blues and Crack-Up, and the result is my favourite record of theirs since their self-titled one.

  19. Every day I record an episode of Middlebrow Madness with my pal Isabelle is a great day. The show has become weirder and more digressive in 2020, and I think it's better for it.

  20. Speaking of Isabelle, I loved this piece she wrote about M. Night Shyamalan's Signs, published on the still-chugging Dim the House Lights.

  21. I watched some bangers for the first time thanks to the podcast: La haine, Wild Strawberries, Das Boot, The Wages of Fear, Sunrise, Amadeus, Before Sunset, Diabolique.

  22. I didn't see a ton of movies from 2020 last year, but I did see a bunch of great movies for the first time even outside my homework for the show: Bringing Out the Dead, Bait, Ocean's Eleven, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (theatrical cuts only), Local Legends, The Big Easy, Tombstone, Yes, Madam, Righting Wrongs, Glass Chin, Gemini.

  23. Incidentally, I bought my copy of Local Legends from Toronto's Gold Ninja Video, the Criterion Collection of regional whatsits, forgotten kung fu movies, and public domain junk.

  24. Justin Decloux, the head honcho of Gold Ninja Video, and fellow Torontonian Will Sloan have a wonderful podcast called The Important Cinema Club, where they talk about everything from classic Hollywood films to Hong Kong Category III joints to vintage porn.

  25. Poetry night on Wednesdays. I didn't write as much this year, but I think the output was better overall.

  26. The good people over at Cactus Press were kind enough to publish three of my poems ("Oxblood," "Brain Sieve," and "Dream #9") in their online magazine, Lantern.

  27. Two of my closest poet friends put out chapbooks on Cactus last year: James Dunnigan with Wine and Fire, and Frances Pope with The Brazen Forecast.

  28. Game night every Friday, without fail. Lots of Codenames, lots of Jackbox. Like Animal Crossing, Jackbox Party Pack 7 could not have come out at a more opportune time.

  29. We did trivia a couple of times for game night. I miss pub trivia. I miss bar nachos.

  30. This is not really the way I wanted it to happen, but I did solidify my friendship with the game night regulars. You know who you are.

  31. I made a pepperoni pizza from scratch and it tasted amazing.

  32. I became an Instant Pot true believer. I made so many soups and stews. It's become my favourite tool for making mashed potatoes. I made eggplant parmesan once, I mean, fuck.

  33. Saturday night Commander. So many degenerate brews.

  34. You know what Magic format was super fun? Jumpstart.

  35. Super Mega Baseball 3 on Switch. Easy to pick up, ridiculously customizable, very fun.

  36. The Omnibus podcast, hosted by indie-rock luminary John Roderick and Jeopardy! legend Ken Jennings.

  37. Revisiting the catalog of the late, great John Prine. I love this set he cut for Sessions at West 54th in 2000.

  38. "City Pop Films."

  39. The 8-bit-styled statistical esoterica of Foolish Baseball.

  40. Writing secret songs.

  41. Seeing The Irishman with friends in the dead of winter at a run-down theatre in a failing mall after having filled our bellies with Korean food.

  42. Making all kinds of playlists on Spotify. There are the Quarantunes lists (a series hour-long songs-of-the-month digest; here's the ninth and final one I put together), some 10-track artist primers (including Rush [RIP Neal Peart], Deerhoof, and Tom Waits), and my favourite, a collaborative playlist with some friends that is now 600+ songs strong.

  43. Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, who has a very real claim to being my favourite film writer, wrote a eulogy for Chicago cinephile institution Odd Obsession.

  44. New favourite writing tool: paint markers.

  45. The Merlin Mann Podcast Universe (Back to Work, Do By Friday, Reconcilable Differences, Roderick on the Line, and a returning You Look Nice Today called California King) continues to deliver.

  46. Not only super-niche, but also in French: the oral history of Roller Hockey International's Montreal Roadrunners.

  47. The fried chicken at Poulet Bronzé, the site of my last social outing before the world ground to a halt.

  48. Hot on the heels of their wonderful 2019 album Oncle Jazz and a few great singles this year, Men I Trust may very well be my new favourite Montreal band.

  49. Another band I fell in love with this year was Chicago's Beach Bunny. Honeymoon is one of my favourite records from this year. Very feels, very 90s.

  50. Speaking of music from Illinois: 2020 featured the return of Champaign's mighty Hum. Inlet was their first album in over two decades, and it was worth every second of the wait. An hour of crunchy, shoegaze-y space rock.

  51. Stasis Sounds for Long-Distance Space Travel by 36 and Zakè, a 96-minute sci-fi drone/ambient concept album about the loneliness and majesty of outer space.

  52. The melancholic bedroom pop of Su Lee.

  53. My mom got our cats a cat tree for Christmas. It's exactly as adorable as it sounds.

  54. Graeme Laird, aka Doc Destructo, late of the great WCW podcast The Greatest Podcast in the History of Our Sport, only put out two YouTube videos this year, but they're both incredibly written and fucking hilarious. One is about the notorious Charles Bronson vehicle Death Wish 3, and the other is about the gloriously cheap Italian Star Wars knockoff Starcrash.

  55. I started running and minding what I ate and I lost nearly 25 pounds.

  56. For Interview magazine, Marilyn Manson interviews Nicolas Cage.

  57. Dan Deacon's album Mystic Familiar. This manages to be very introspective without sacrificing the sugar-rush highs of his older work.

  58. I'd like to plug the work of one Nathan Smith, a writer from Knoxville currently based in New York. I like his Letterboxd lists (i.e. "Movies for Adults: Studio Auteur Oddities, 2004-2018" and "Aughts Eurotrash Special Effects Spectacle Cinema"), and he wrote a ton of good shit this year. My two faves of his were his piece for Pitchfork about Phantom of the Paradise and his piece for Waypoint on the DJing video game Fuser.

  59. One of the few times I've braved the outside this year was to check out the new Uniqlo store downtown, and I might have found the greatest T-shirt ever made.

  60. San Francisco noise-pop institution Deerhoof put out two great records this year: the post-apocalyptic Future Teenage Cave Artists and the kaleidoscopic covers album Love-Lore.

  61. For Vanity Fair, David Kushner on prog legend Rick Wakeman.

  62. Getting the 'rona buzz (aka #3 all over) four months after it was cool.

  63. Good Italian toothpaste.

  64. For Current Affairs, Lyta Gold on the fake nerd boys of Silicon Valley.

  65. Punisher, the newest album by Phoebe Bridgers. A good chunk of my favourite lyrics and song details of 2020 are on this.

  66. Getting a smaller desk and a better chair for my tiny computer nook.

  67. "The Docked Yacht: AOR Cinema 1979-85."

  68. Kayla Czaga's wonderful poetry collection For Your Safety Please Hold On.

  69. The continuing excellence of Blank Check with Griffin and David.

  70. The great Magic YouTube channel Rhystic Studies put out "1995: The Season of the Witch," a great video contextualizing early Magic's depiction of witchcraft within the Satanic Panic hangover.

  71. Speaking of Magic stuff on YouTube: my brothers in playing with crappy cards on purpose, Quest for the Janklord, the pride of Roseville, Minnesota.

  72. RTJ4, another fireball of a record courtesy of the the formidable indie-rap tag team Run the Jewels.

  73. Chef Sohla El-Waylly rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the Bon Appétit fiasco to land a plum gig with the Babish Culinary Universe.

  74. Related: the great Claire Saffitz starting her own YouTube channel and dropping her cookbook Dessert Person.

  75. For the New York Times, Dave Itzkoff on Martin Scorsese.

  76. Repurposing a big birdcage for my rats.

  77. During my vacation towards the end of the year, I defaulted into a lounging uniform: black t-shirt, black running tights, black hoodie, black slippers. Not gonna lie, it kind of rules.

  78. Taking pictures of neighbourhood cats.

  79. Finally springing for a copy of the gorgeous movie-nerd card game Cinephile.

  80. Virtual board game night with my pal Adam.

  81. City Girl's continued run as the nea plus ultra of chill lo-fi beats to study to, with the release of the fizzy Goddess of the Hollow and, my favourite, the delicate Siren of the Formless.

  82. This year in chillhop: Kupla's Kingdom in Blue and Life Forms; Sleepy Fish's Beneath Your Waves and Everything Fades to Blue.

  83. Sending out a ton of custom-made postcards to friends and family for the holidays.

  84. Not one, not two, but three dope Mountain Goats albums this year: Songs for Pierre Chuvin, Getting Into Knives, and The Jordan Lake Sessions.

  85. For the New York Times Magazine, Sam Anderson profiles the man, the myth, the legend, "Weird Al" Yankovic.

  86. Two audiobooks on the creative process: Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist Trilogy (dude has been a source of inspiration for some years now) and Jeff Tweedy's How to Write One Song.

  87. Speaking of Austin Kleon, I really like his newsletter. (For the record: I just out and out lifted the idea for this very list from him like five years ago).

  88. Speaking of newsletters, another one I look forward to every week is Laura Olin's.

  89. The great William Tyler, one of my favourite guitarists, put out two bangers this year: Music from First Cow and New Vanitas.

  90. Some pals from Mastodon started a very funny podcast about advice columns called We'll Take This One.

  91. One of the hosts of We'll Take This One, my pal Amelia, has a very funny funny newsletter where she talks about Lifetime Original movies at length. It's called, awesomely, Don't Threaten Me with a Good Lifetime.

  92. I updated my 200 favourite albums list! New entries include the Blasters' rip-roaring self-titled album, Scott Gilmore's yard-sale Balearic beat missive Subtle Vertigo, and the Blue Nile's melancholic sophisti-pop masterpiece Hats.

  93. The meta-bro comedy stylings of Chad Kroeger (not his real name) and JT Parr. Their Going Deep with Chad and JT podcast is a digressive delight, and this profile in Vice gets to the heart of their appeal.

  94. I watched a ton of Todd in the Shadows videos, so I learned a lot of stuff about one-hit wonders and major flop records.

  95. Secret Santa by mail.

  96. Last and First Men, the late great Jóhann Jóhannsson's wonderful minimalistic post-apocalyptic sci-fi opus. Tilda Swinton narrates our ruins.

  97. Someone uploaded all of Orson Welles Sketchbook, the great director's BBC series from 1955, to YouTube. I could listen to this man talk for days.

  98. So there's this Korean YouTube channel called Yummyboy, and all they show is street food being made. That's it, that's the gimmick. It's riveting.

  99. Starting a daily writing practice in the dying days of the year.

  100. Getting through this Year of Pestilence in one piece.

#top100