2016 in Screencaps is me capturing the most striking images from the films I watch this year. Mostly older movies watched on a small(ish) screen.
I’ve never watched an Ingmar Bergman film before. That’s a terrible oversight, but those kind of glaring emissions in my cinematic knowledge are also why I’m doing this Screencaps project.
After Wild Strawberries (another pick from Kubrick’s top ten list) I will be watching more Bergman films. It’s an incredible piece of work, not nearly as pretentious as all those Bergman pastiches would have you believe, in fact I was surprised by how… gentle this film is.
A lot of that down is to the lead, Victor Sjöström, a silent film star who was 79 at the time of filming, and the rest of it is down to that extraordinary cinematography and editing. This film just envelopes you in its shadows and its faces, every frame feels like a work of art and you can only imagine what it would be like to see it in on a huge screen in a dark cinema.
Plus, Max von Sydow is in this film for like five seconds, playing a garage attendant.
Damn, three weeks since I did one of these. A combination of busy period at work, general Christmas chaos and the fact that I’ve been organising our Non-Fiction Addiction live event for January 2017.
That event goes ‘on sale’ (it’s going to be free, hence the inverted commas) next week, so if you haven’t signed up to our mailing list already, you should do that.
Enough excuses and self-promotion. On with the bumper list of cool stuff:
The Rapha Why is a nice five minute potted histroy of the brand. I’ve actually shied away from buying Rapha in the past few years just because it’s so ubiquitous now (plus it’s prohibitively expensive a lot of the time), but you can’t fault them for brand-building and sheer determination. And the quality of their content is always salivatingly top notch.
I saw Paterson this week. Wow. I was a bit hungover, on my own, and missing my wife (who is abroad working for a few days), so by the time I got out the cinema I was an emotional wreck. But what a great way to be wrecked. It’s a beautiful film, and a few days later I’m still thinking about it (if you’ve seen it can we talk about the twins stuff, his relationship with his wife, and the realness of the little girl and the Japanese guy).
My friend Alex Hunter has been working on his YouTube show Attaché for about a year now. Their smart, funny, info-packed 15 minute-ish city guides are a godsend if you’re a frequent traveller, but with their Beirut episode they’ve taken a real step up. Go watch it.
An article entitled Confessions of an Instagram Influencer could have been a hateful dirge but it’s actually a fascinating look at how our media can be gamed and how the concept of ‘authenticity’ has been warped beyond all recognition.
Stranger Things, Halt and Catch Fire, The Americans… More and more TV shows are set in the recent past, which means their sets need to be dressed with props like broadcast equipment, modems and mainframe computers. Here’s an article about where they find all this stuff.
If you find a bug in a Vegas video poker machine and then exploit that bug to win yourself a lot of money, is that illegal? These two morons found out the answer.
The film is about two down and out Americans (played by Bogart and Tim Holt) searching for work in Mexico, who convince an old prospector (played by Huston’s dad Walter), to help them mine for gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains.
It’s a tale of greed and violence that probably wouldn’t even get made today thanks to the downbeat mood and depressing ending. Also, I never realised what an unattractive leading man Humph’ was. Apparently Bogart is quoted as saying his character in this film was “the worst shit you ever saw” and he’s not wrong. The guy is thoroughly unlikable and Bogart makes sure you dislike him.
The other thing that struck me about this film was how visually sparse it was. For a western there are no landscapes, no breathtaking vistas, no epic sweeping shots – just a lot of close ups of faces (for that reason it reminded me a little of Tarantino’s Hateful Eight).
Mr. Trump doesn’t like to be photographed from behind, from the side or from below.
Run The Jewels respond to Trump’s win with this:
for our friends. for our family. for everyone who is hurting or scared right now. here is a song we wrote months ago. we werent planning on releasing it yet but… well it feels right, now. it’s about fear and it’s about love and it’s about wanting more for all of us. it’s called “2100”. we hope it finds you well.
And there’s a new one from Childish Gambino which makes me very excited for the new album.
When I get old I want to live like these two. Green walls and all.
“This is not what a bar is about. A bar is to go to get a little bit buzzed, and pleasantly derange the senses, and have a good time, and interact with other people, or make bad decisions, or feel bad about your life. It’s not to sit there f*cking analyzing beer.”
An amateur magician and an ex-Design Ethicist (nope, me either) at Google, explains how technology can hijack our mind. The comparison of a mobile phone to a slot machine rings very true.
Saving the best for last this week: Take half an hour or so out of your day sometime soon to read this essay On Nostalgia by Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson. It won the 2015 Hrushka Memorial Nonfiction Prize, and after reading it you’ll see why.
I do know one thing for certain: The birthplace of my father’s secrecy. I even know the date. October 21, 1965. That was the night my grandmother shot herself through the heart with a pistol. She was 48. I don’t know the caliber of the gun that she used to commit suicide, I only know that it belonged to my grandfather and that he was away on a business trip.
Really happy with how the NFA newsletter is starting to take shape.
Each fortnight we’re looking at one documentary, an article or book, and a podcast; plus a bunch of news and recommendations that we’ve picked up along the way.
My favourite thing this week is more of throwaway link we found while reading into the history of the high five. It’s a long article about the life (and death) of pioneering female sports journalist Jennifer Frey.
Just when you think you’ve subscribed to all the good podcasts, along come two that grab you by the cerebral cortex and refuse to let go.
First up is How I Built This from NPR, which talks to innovators and entrepreneurs about the things they’ve created. The Vice episode is terrific.
And then there’s a music podcast. Music podcasts are tough, bcause you can’t be to niche or too generic and you’re competing with the likes of Spotify and the radio. But, for me DJ History nails it. It’s rare that I’ve heard anything that Bill Brewster plays but I generally love over 75% of it, plus he has a very natural and easy ‘radio voice’.
Ooof, Pixars’s short animated film will kick you right in the feels, but what’s really interesting about it is it was produced in the animator’s spare time, taking advantage of Pixar’s policy of making resources available to it’s staff for personal projects (and its called Borrowed Time, geddit?).
This opinion piece from the Guardian feels like it should be satire, or absurd, or just plain stupid. But the fact it’s real and serious is what makes it so interesting. That it’s about smashed avocado on sourdough is probably going to stop a lot of people reading it, but really the central idea is that there’s a whole generation of people who can’t afford to buy property of their own, so to compensate they are buying the surrounding social signifiers of a middle-class, property-owning lifestyle. And that includes avocado on toast and expensive coffees.
Brunch is the opiate of the masses. We are not going out for brunch instead of buying houses: we are brunching because we cannot afford to buy houses.
Run The Jewels have a new single out, their first in two years and the first taster of the upcoming Run the Jewels 3.
This ad from Bose has been getting quite a bit of well-deserved attention. Great choreography + abandoned London is always a winner.
Finally this week, Jason Kottke wrote a lovely post ostensibly about the final two episodes of Halt and Catch Fire season three, but really about the origins of the Web, the death of the open Web, the rise of walled gardens and how said all that makes him.