This documentary, The Barkley Marathons, on the most bizarre race in the US is very good. To sign up you have to give the race organizer with that $1.60, a license plate from your home state, and an essay about why you should be allowed to join the race. That essay helps the organizer pick one person he is sure will lose. The whole situation just keeps getting stranger and more brutally demanding of the people who compete in this rally for over a hundred miles through dense woods as they climb the equivalent of Mt. Everest’s elevation twice. Highly recommended. It’s streaming on Netflix right now, or you can buy it through a bunch of other services.
George Pendle has a fantastic article about it for Esquire:
The race can begin any time between midnight and noon on the closest Saturday to April Fools’ Day, always exactly one hour after a conch is blown. Runners are not given a map of the course, which is unmarked and largely off-trail, until the afternoon before. They must rely on compasses and the race’s obscure official directions to find their way. GPS is forbidden.
Runners must locate thirteen books in each loop and tear out a page corresponding to their race number. This year’s batch includes Unravelled, Lost and Found, and There Is Nothing Wrong With You: Going Beyond Self-Hate. After each loop, the pages are counted and each runner is given a new number. There are no aid stations, just two unmanned water drops that are often frozen solid. Those unable to finish are serenaded by the Barkley’s official bugler playing a discordant rendition of “Taps.”
The surest way to gain a link is to talk about the best movie of all time, Sneakers, as Priscilla Page has by taking apart the film for Birth.Movies.Death:
Phil Alden Robinson’s Sneakers might just be the most undervalued movie of all time. It’s a political thriller, a caper, “tech-noir,” a little like Three Days of the Condor reimagined as a buddy film. Sneakers is awash in shades of blue, as if its story takes place in the shadows, or in the glow of an old computer screen. James Horner’s score features strings, a choir, and Branford Marsalis on soprano saxophone — it’s a wintry, whimsical, haunting thing. Sneakers is the creation of Phil Alden Robinson, Lawrence Lasker, and Walter F. Parkes, who sought to make a movie they would want to see. It took 10 years to write, ultimately becoming an excuse for these guys to hang out.
Back when DVDs were still a thing you would own and want to collect, I’d give out copies of this movie to my friends who I am sure never watched it. Sneakers is fantastic, but when you roughly try to explain to someone that it’s a movie about hacking they think Hackers and immediately tune out because that is going to be a goofy, unrealistic, bad time. Sneakers is unrealistic, but the relationships in it are incredibly relatable.
As Priscilla points out, this is also a movie that is not really high-tech. All of the 90’s and early 2000’s movies about hacking realized that people sitting at a computer typing is boring as shit to watch. So many of the crew’s solutions in Sneakers are about personal interactions and introduced concepts like social engineering that I didn’t know about when I saw the film.
Go watch the movie, then read the rest of Priscilla’s article.
The first trailer for Blade Runner 2049 looks pretty good. Here’s the official description:
Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.
John Carmack is one of those rare people who pretty much everything they write is worth reading. He’s not always right, but it is always entertaining to watch his level of genius on display. In this case, Carmack is writing about overcoming the problems he ran into while developing a custom virtual reality environment where you can watch Netflix films and shows on the Samsung Gear VR device. You should read it.
There are not many people I trust to make recommendations about funding another crowdfunding campaign from people who have already failed to ship a documentary once, but you should read the full argument from Jason Scott. Here’s just a part:
Way back in 2012, I posted something, talking about how worried I was that a documentary that looked and sounded great seemed to have disappeared. I’d looked far and wide to contact the filmmakers, and nothing. But I wanted to at least put my voice out there, in case they wanted to talk to me. Unlike people who talked big about what they wanted to do, the small amount of footage I’d seen from the documentary looked so fantastic that I very nearly quit doing documentaries.
Like a lot of people, I’d pre-ordered the blu-ray edition for the forthcoming film, and I’d waited. And waited, and then nothing came of it, websites went down, and I squirreled away the trailer and other footage I’d seen, sad beyond belief such a promising work seemed to be doomed, destined for the shadows of promises and wishes.
Then, in 2014, I got contacted by one of the creators. Yes, they were alive. Yes, they had a lot of pieces of the movie. And yes, they’d run into incredible financial problems, gone bankrupt, lost homes, had massive layoffs… yes, as expected, there had been some incredible shitshow and the production company was essentially gone. They’d had to go into other directions, and put the project into a box and refund whatever they could afford to refund, and make a living.
The script is the biggest problem with Terminator Genisys – it is stupid and it is riddled with cheap, lazy callbacks to movies that have technically never happened after this reboot – but the casting gives that shit script a run for its money as The Biggest Problem. Jai Courtney is a disaster as Kyle Reese; he’s wrong in every way, having none of the weary soldier qualities that Michael Biehn brought to the role. Courtney is the new Sam Worthington, who was the new Gretchen Mol, who was the new person whose name I forget because these are forgettable actors foisted upon us by the weird Hollywood hive mind. There are make-up techniques designed to baffle facial recognition software and Jai Courtney seems to have been designed with that in mind – he’s an actor who passes through your brain like a fart in a wind tunnel. Just poof, gone.
In a year where we’ve had the excellent Mad Max: Fury Road, this terrible redux of an action/sci-fi film we all love stands out even more than in an off year where your A Good Day to Die Hard or The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) can be properly ignored and forgotten.
Dan Benjamin (of many fine podcasts at 5by5) and Merlin Mann (of Back to Work and Roderick on the Line) recently recorded a podcast about the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski.
The Big Lebowski is such a great movie in all of its nonsense, and as Dan and Merlin point out we all know a Dude but for some reason the person I’m most amused by in the movie is Walter Sobchak.
Walter is dead-set on rules (he threatens a man with a gun for breaking one during league bowling) and constantly living in the past (all of his talk of the war in Vietnam) but he’s also bizarrely focused on being politically correct at one point in the film (Also, Dude, chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.) and at the same time is constantly bumbling and unapologetic in his every attempt to help the unmotivated Dude. Every attempt of Walter’s to help ends up resulting in failure and more pain for The Dude. What a great character. I know a Walter Sobchak, I bet you do as well.
This podcast goes over almost every minute of it and points out details that those of us who have only watched it three or so times may have missed.
You should read Dan and Merlin’s notes which contain links to the script, links to the movie if you haven’t seen it recently, links to get the show into your podcast dingus, and more. For something completely different maybe consider listening to Chipocrite’s 8-bit Lebowski.
Neil Gaiman isn’t a nobody, except when he is at the Oscars:
I had written a book called Coraline, which the director Henry Selick had transformed into a stop-motion wonderland. I’d helped Henry as much as I could through the process of turning something from a book into a film. I had endorsed the film, encouraged people to see it, mugged with buttons on an internet trailer. I had also written a 15-second sequence for the Oscars, in which Coraline told an interviewer what winning an Oscar would do for her. I’d assumed that would get me into the Oscars. It didn’t. But Henry, as director, had tickets and could decide where they would go, and one of them went to me.
via A nobody’s guide to the Oscars.