Editorial

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Puzzle

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Shout! Factory and the folks who run Mystery Science Theater 3000 have teamed up to produce a new puzzle, and it looks like a fun addition to anyone’s collection.

I hope no one gets the wrong impression of Patton Oswalt or Felicia Day, however. They are playing characters! They’re not actually that maniacal in real life, or so I have been led to believe.

Wakanda Forever

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It’s been more than a year since the beautiful, wonderful, and talented Sara Benincasa put up her own money in order to bribe journalists to ask Trump if he thought Wakanda was a “shithole country.” Or maybe it was just to ask him what he thought of Wakanda. Or maybe it was all about figuring out if he knew what Wakanda really was.

Who cares? Trump’s a stupid ass and Wakanda forever, baby:

Want to know what would happen if a reporter seriously asked President Donald Trump how that bilateral trade agreement with Wakanda is panning out?

You’re not the only one. On Saturday, a widely shared tweet from Sara Benincasa, a screenwriter and author, called for a journalist to “very seriously” ask Trump “his opinion on our nation’s relations with Wakanda”—the fictional country from Marvel’s Black Panther comics.

It’s no stretch of the imagination to believe that Trump would deliver an answer. This is, after all, the same man who made up a whole-ass African country (“Nambia”—whose health system is “increasingly self-sufficient,” apparently). 

Benincasa offered $300 of her own money and, after many users chimed in with their support, said that she would start a “crowdfunding or Venmo situation” that would allow others to contribute to the purse. The stipulations: The question needs to be asked by a member of the media, and the question and answer must be recorded live on video.

Of all of the worthless comic book movies, there are but a handful that are worth something besides Wonder Woman. I thought Black Panther would get more recognition for the complexity of the story line and the resonance it has had in the consciousness of the country. Yeah, there really is a battle between good and evil going on, and evil wins far too often for my taste.

Wolves Hunt Fish

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This is remarkable:

In another stunning revelation of wolf behavior from Voyageurs National Park, researchers Thursday announced they have confirmed park wolves hunting for and eating fish out of streams as a regular part of their diet.

The researchers released the first-ever video of wolves eating freshwater fish, and said GPS data shows one pack spent about half their time during several weeks in April and May "hunting" in creeks for spawning suckers and northern pike.

The revelation comes just one week after the News Tribune first reported the same researchers confirming wolves spent weeks on end in blueberry patches, eating blueberries at peak summer ripeness. The same researchers also are the first to document wolves' consuming large numbers of beaver, when the animals are available in summer months, and that wolves will leave deer and moose alone if they can get beaver as meals.

There's some speculation that the wolves focus on beavers — and maybe now on fish — has helped keep the park's moose population stable at the same time moose numbers have crashed across most of their Minnesota range.

The Voyageurs Wolf Project, a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Voyageurs National Park, has followed GPS-collared wolves from over seven different packs since 2015. The fish revelations were recently published in the journal Mammalian Biology.

Using GPS collars, the team collects location data from wolves every 20 minutes. That data reveals not just wolf behavior but also pack territory boundaries.

Researcher Tom Gable first noticed the wolf-fish interaction in April, 2017, when he hiked to a creek where GPS data showed one of the collared wolves was spending a lot of time. "As I approached the area, I briefly saw a wolf trying to catch a fish before it ran into the woods," Gable said. He then found fish remains and wolf tracks scattered along the creek.

The image above is a trail camera capturing a wolf in the process of stalking and removing a fish from a creek. This is the first time we have acquired scientific proof that wolves take fish out of the water. Up to this point, no other proof existed.

Given all of the work that has been done to study and conserve habitat for wolves, it is without question a major scientific discovery that, in the context of our current disinterest in preserving our planet, renders it tragic in a way. We are watching the slow-motion destruction of the planet and we are entertained by foolishness and the utterly crass. A handful of people remained dedicated to figuring out how the world works and we owe them a huge debt.

Get On a Bike

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This is a fascinating look at how the Dutch redesigned their cities to accommodate cycling. This casual style you see depicted above looks hilarious at first, but, consider this—these people are off their asses, doing something and they don’t care what you think.

They banished cars and they went with what works—special lanes, ride share opportunities, and they’re well ahead of us in terms of not destroying the planet. When I lived in Europe, I saw this on a large scale in Munich, Germany. There were so many bikes, it just didn’t make sense to think about cars. If you could live your life and only have to drive your car once or twice a week, wouldn’t you do it? Could you convert your thinking to make walking and cycling your primary means of getting around? And don’t forget public transportation. In Europe, you can use all manner of buses and trains. Could you change your mindset about getting from here to there?

I live in Texas now. Unless we’re talking the downtown area of Dallas or San Antonio, I don’t see how this works without ending up in traction because here, cars will just run you over. It’s a sad fact of life. With the advent of the pay-as-you-go scooter business, I suppose it would be possible to see people changing how they do things, but still. It’s really hard to see dramatic change happen without an investment in making it possible to drive less in cars and to get around more on foot or on a bike.

I am very much the kind of person who can’t envision riding a bike with a helmet. I don’t know what it is—a lack of common sense, my own ridiculous ideas, or just plain stupidity. It could be all of those things. The idea of riding a bike with a helmet has never made any sense to me. I would rather just do what these folks are doing and ride around.

Oh, and none of these people are fat, are they? Take that, Americans.

Pay the Lady What She is Worth

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If AMC doesn't pay Lauren Cohan what she is worth, then to hell with that network:

Lauren Cohan is mulling walking away from The Walking Dead.

The actress, who has starred as Maggie since season two of the AMC zombie drama, has booked a lead role in ABC drama pilot Whiskey Cavalier.

Cohan has emerged as one of the most in-demand actresses this pilot season. Sources tell THR that she has been actively looking for her next role as she battles AMC over her season nine salary. With Walking Dead already renewed for a ninth season, Cohan does not have a deal in place to return to the show. Sources say the actress and her agents are not happy with the offers that have been on the table from AMC. Although Cohan is not seeking salary parity with male leads Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus, her camp and AMC have been engaged in a months-long negotiation that remains far apart. Insiders suggest that she is actively looking for her next job and not trying to use the pilot casting process to force AMC's hand as the actress's camp remains frustrated by AMC's lowball offers. Other sources note AMC has made "aggressive offers" to re-sign Cohan for season nine.

AMC seems like the chintziest of networks. They are incapable of taking care of talent. I can't believe they are not paying female leads on the show the same as what they are paying males because it is, for all intents and purposes, one of the best ensemble dramas around. And I say this even after the audience collapsed two years ago.

Why are we even having this discussion? Of course you should pay women the same as men, especially when they demonstrate that they are more than equal to the task of storytelling. In the case of the Walking Dead, which is more of an ensemble show, I think that is definitely the case. 

I understand that there can be exceptions, but there can also be times when women should be paid more. It's hard to argue that Anna Gunn should have been paid the same as Bryan Cranston for Breaking Bad, but it's not outside the realm of possibility that she should have been brought to a level very close to him in terms of compensation. He was the overall lead of the show and she had less screen time. I always thought Stana Katic should have been paid more than Nathan Fillion and given top billing for Castle. She was clearly the better of the two characters and had more depth.

Paddington 2

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Now THIS is a superhero franchise:

An emotional masterpiece that digs deep while keeping you smiling, and a pure example of why sequels can still be a good thing.

In total honesty, no one expected director Paul King's Paddington to make any sort of a splash upon its release in 2015. Adaptations of classic characters, modernized for today's youth, have always been a tricky thing, and for the most part the results had been unremarkable. But King and his team hit a mountain of gold when it came to the legendary bear with a heart of Marmalade, as the film not only tapped into the whimsy of Michael Bond's source material, but it did so with a very appropriate modern flare. It gives me immense pleasure to say that if you were worried Paddington 2 would fail to repeat that feat, you're absolutely wrong.

Three years after he moved to London, Paddington (Ben Whishaw) is looking to get his Aunt Lucy the perfect birthday present -- an antique pop-up book of London. What starts as a bunch of odd jobs in the name of raising funds for an absurdly expensive book turns into a quest to prove his innocence, as the book is stolen and Paddington is the main suspect. With Mr. and Mrs. Brown (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins) leading the charge, the race is on to clear this bear's good name, before it's too late.

I would much rather see this than any Marvel or DC film. The original, with Nicole Kidman making one of the great villain characters of zoology look sinister and hapless at the same time, was a masterpiece. Do not turn your nose up at this one. Really, this is what films are supposed to be like.

Melania Trump's Personal War on Christmas

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I get the sense that Melania is not happy. Not happy at all.

She has gone from jolly decorations and old-timey traditions and familiar themes to something straight out of the world of European cinema. It's a jarring hellscape. It reminds me of an Ingmar Bergman film:

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And, remember--it's not Christmas in Slovenia without Krampus!

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The War on Christmas may have lost General Bill O'Reilly, but Melania Trump is finding a way to horrify everyone with her interior Christmas decor ideas. I can just imagine how she instructed the White House staff to decorate:

"Lots of dead branches, pointing up to heaven, lit with cold, indifferent light, creating a maelstrom of claustrophobia, trapping the soul in every corner of every nook and cranny of this putrid construct of reality."


Armie Hammer Does Not Owe You an Active Twitter Account

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I agree that it is insane, but it is also a symbol of how we expect people to make themselves available and turn themselves inside out for entertainment purposes. Each and every person is entitled to their own version of privacy. You ought to be allowed to choose what you want people to see and to know and to read from you. 

If Armie Hammer doesn't want to be on Twitter, go pound sand.


No One Cares About Blade Runner 2049

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Someone failed to notice that no one really wanted this sequel and that only a handful of old dudes does not a film audience make:

The hero of Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s 1982 dystopian masterpiece, isn’t Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the cop who finds and kills “replicants” (bioengineered androids) for the LAPD in a grim, rain-drenched futurescape. It’s his primary target, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), an escaped combat unit seeking a cure to the four-year lifespan built into his system. Roy is super-strong and terrifying, to be sure, and unafraid to commit murder, but Scott shoots the tow-headed Hauer like an angel, especially in his unforgettable death scene, as he saves Deckard’s life and crouches over him, imparting his strange, alien memories to his would-be assassin before expiring.

In the world of Blade Runner, replicants are an underclass used as slave labor. Deckard’s arc in the film is one of empathy—he’s a bounty hunter who begins to understand the humanity of his quarry, both in his fearsome respect for Roy and his love for Rachael (Sean Young), another replicant who’s unaware of her true nature. The debate about whether Deckard is a replicant himself is the mysterious undercurrent to Scott’s movie, but not its beating heart. Roy’s final monologue is so magical because it’s the moment where Deckard, and viewers, finally realize the enemy is not the unstoppable monster he appeared to be.

All that money, and they made a film no one cares about because the sequel comes well after when there would have been a viable commercials audience for a film that pretty much only some old white guys give a shit about. Can't wait for the sequel to Running Scared to hit theaters.

Dick Gregory 1932-2017

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Dick Gregory was one of the greatest civil rights advocates in American history, full stop. His legacy is that of activist and entertainer, but his impact was felt everywhere in popular culture. If you are sad about Bill Cosby, then be grateful for Dick Gregory, who did more than virtually every entertainer of his era to advocate for Civil Rights.

Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, who broke barriers in the 1960s and became one of the first African-Americans to perform at white clubs, died Saturday.

He was 84. 

Gregory recently rescheduled an event in Atlanta because he was hospitalized. He died in Washington, his son posted on social media without giving details. 

    "The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love, and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time," Christian Gregory said. "More details will be released over the next few days."

    Gregory satirized segregation and racial injustice in his acts, and was arrested several times in the 1960s for joining civil rights rallies.

    Gregory died a day before Jerry Lewis, and their coincidental demise is a reminder that most celebrities stay the hell away from controversy and charity.  Gregory didn't shy away from the violence of the 1960s--he was a victim of it, numerous times. Never once did he bow out and take the easy route to fame and fortune. He lived his entire life trying to make this country a better place. Lewis spent many, many years raising money for Muscular Dystrophy victims and trying to make this country better.

    We will not see their like ever again.

    Daniel Day-Lewis is the Greatest Actor of All Time

     Daniel Day Lewis, photographed by New York celebrity photographer Dale May.

    Daniel Day-Lewis has earned a chance to retire and do other things:

    Daniel Day-Lewis’s upcoming collaborationwith his There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson will be his final role. The actor is retiring, according to Variety. “Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor,” Day-Lewis’s spokeswoman, Leslee Dart, told Variety. “He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years. This is a private decision and neither he nor his representatives will make any further comment on this subject.” Day-Lewis has won three Academy Awards for Best Actor: for playing Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln, for playing the depraved, wolfish oilman Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, and for playing the Irish writer Christy Brown in My Left Foot. His filmography is peppered with other notable collaborations: He’s worked with Martin Scorsese in The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York, and sang and danced in Rob Marshall’s Nine.

    Day-Lewis is currently at work on a period drama set in 1950s London. The Paul Thomas Anderson movie is being filmed under the working title Phantom Thread, and focuses on a highly sought-after dressmaker. (Vulture guesses the movie is about Charles James.) What’s next for Day-Lewis? Maybe he’ll start sculpting with Brad Pitt, or hanging out with Charlie Hunnam, who told us he’s a huge fan. In the words of his Bloodcharacter Daniel Plainview, “I’m finished.”

    I don't think this is marketing hype for a new movie; I think this is the last thing he's interested in doing. Why can't people who are really good at something retire? I was sad when Gene Hackman quit acting, too, but that's just the way it is. To go out on top is rare, but to retire when you're the greatest living actor and probably the best actor of all time, well--who are we to judge?

    Sir Roger Moore 1927-2017

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    Sir Roger Moore was the James Bond that I grew up with; his take on the character was oft-derided but it was perfect for the times.

    To say that Bond should have been cunning, ruthless, and humorless in the 1970s was to ignore the overwhelming importance of male bravado and self-awareness of the times. This was the decade that made stars out of complex characters (DeNiro, Pacino, Hoffman) and less than complex fellows (Eastwood, Reynolds, Bronson). You could not have made Bond like any similar character from American cinema, nor could he have had the detached, monosyllabic approach of international films. Bond had to be a global star, able to bridge all of the different genres of film. He had to be able to do dry humor, heart-stopping action, clever romance, and political intrigue. He had to be able to save people, kill people, and mock people, often in the course of a single action sequence. 

    That meant finding a British actor with serious theater chops, which is what people still do when they need someone who can truly inhabit a character. Michael Fassbender is the Roger Moore of our time, but, really, he's just another version of Moore churned out by the wonderful schools that teach acting in Britain. You can definitely see Fassbender becoming one of the greats and surpassing quite a few great actors, but he's following the template that Moore helped create.

    In his day, no one was better than Roger Moore at being everyman and superman at the same time. He had to portray a character that was marketed and sold to the vast world audience of the time. He had to be the actor who could open a film in London, Rome, Los Angeles and Tokyo and few people have ever been able to do that. The universality of his portrayal does not dim with age. You can laugh at how camp it was, but the whole goddamned 1970s was a campy affair on purpose. At no point were you ever not able to believe he could do what he did. That was what made him great.

    The Bond that Roger Moore gave us was sharp, sly, quick and capable. He was very much of his time, and we do his performance a disservice by thinking he had to act like the action figures of the last thirty years or so.

    Can VEEP Still be a Relief in Weary Times?

    It used to be fun to watch VEEP because you just knew that the real thing wasn't as awful or as cynical as what you were seeing on television.

    Now? 

    Holy mother of God, it's like a version of reality we all wish we were living. The real thing is so much more awful, so much more venal that it is impossible to overstate just how horrible things have become.

    Can a show that shows us a funny way of looking into the political and social lives of selfish people survive in an era when the real thing is more of a farce than what's written as fiction? Well, if they have been working their asses off, sure. It's entirely possible for art to transcend reality if people have put in the effort. This is a show where people have been doing that so why not?

    Hollywood Doesn't Care About American Audiences

    This question is easy to answer:

    Will Hollywood Learn From Hidden Figures’s Success?

    Nope!

    Hidden Figures has been the breakout film of 2017 thus far. Starring three African American women (played by Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe, and Octavia Spencer), it focuses on an unheralded piece of American history: the work of black female mathematicians and engineers at NASA in the 1960s. Released to strong reviewsHidden Figures seems destined for a few Academy Award nominations next week. Since it expanded nationwide, it has spent two weeks at the top of the box office, ahead of big-budget films like Monster TrucksPatriots DayLive By Night, and Oscar frontrunner La La Land. Made for a comparatively small $25 million, the film is essentially guaranteed to gross at least $100 million in the United States alone, posting a very healthy profit for its studio, 20th Century Fox. The viewing public’s desire for a film like Hidden Figures is indisputable. So why does Hollywood make so few of them?
    In 2015, only 32 of the top 100 films at the box office featured a female lead or co-lead; only three of those leads were women of color, and almost half of them did not feature a black female character in any capacity. After having an all-white slate of acting nominees for two years in a row (spurring the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite), the Academy is trying to diversify its voting body with the hope of rewarding a broader selection of films. But Hollywood at large is showing few traces of change. Last year’s most successful films, largely superhero sequels and animated blockbusters, lack for variety in their storytelling. The slow nature of film production means it can take years to really reflect a shift in studio thinking, but Hidden Figures still feels (disappointingly) like an anomaly rather than a sign of a real transformation.

    Hollywood is happy to turn out a handful of small, independent pictures like this but, really, the whole thing is built around larger movies with special effects that will appeal to global audiences. The economics are such that, if they were to shift everything, lay off thousands of special effects people, and try to make movies like this, it would bankrupt the industry faster than it's going bankrupt now.

    In short, they want to make movies Chinese teenage boys will want to see, own, and watch repeatedly. They don't want to empower a generation of African-American actors and then start having to pay them what they're worth. The only way they can survive is to keep making superhero films that don't suck. They don't care about filmmaking or art anymore--it's not 1970. The biggest directors are not visionaries--they're successful project managers who can work for months on end and produce content. 

    Who's the new Robert Altman and why isn't he making movies?

    Octavia Spencer alone is one of the greatest actors of her generation. She's not just an actress. She's not just a black actress. She's a fucking actor. They don't treat her like Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender, or Tom Hanks because they think she's not a movie star. Put her in a movie with five or six other people who can act, make her the lead, and she'll blow the fucking doors off of people. Do you think there's a Hollywood producer out there ready to sell that to a studio? Who's going to give her $10 million to start in a film and have her as the top billed actor?

    Nobody. And that's a crying goddamned shame. She's amazing. And she's undervalued and under appreciated.

    Oscar Wilde

    Oscar Wilde returns to England:

    A portrait of the writer Oscar Wilde, which had to be sold off after he was accused of gross indecency, is to return from America for the first time in nearly a century. It will be displayed at Tate Britain, in an exhibition called Queer British Art 1861-1967, which opens in April.

    Robert Harper Pennington, an American artist who painted the full-length portrait (1881), gave it to Wilde and his wife Constance as a wedding present in 1884. It was the couple’s most prized possession, hung above the fireplace in their London home. But in 1895 Wilde was arrested and later sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for his homosexual relationship with Alfred Douglas. 

    Wilde’s legal expenses led to him being declared bankrupt, and the Pennington portrait had to be sold. Later, in the 1920s, it was bought by a US collector and the portrait was subsequently acquired by the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at the University of California, Los Angeles.

    Are we any more enlightened now than we were in Wilde's time? You can be broken by the law and rendered destitute for less than loving someone nowadays. I think what has changed is that it can happen before Piers Morgan has a chance to open up his puke funnel and comment.