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The Dutch Angle – An Edifying Supercut from Fandor Keyframe

Fandor is a site that offers movie streaming for a monthly fee. What makes it different from Netflix is that the film choices are curated by cinephiles. There are no duds in the mix.

Besides their paid service, they also have a blog called Keyframe that offers movie news, filmmaker interviews, podcasts, movie reviews and analysis, and video essays.

I just discovered this little gem on one of my favorite techniques: the Dutch angle, the slanting of the frame to create tension and discomfort. The video essay arranges the examples by degree of angle, so the effect of how much slant is clear. What’s more, there are multiple shots from the same movie, for instance, Do the Right Thing and Evil Dead. These multiple shot examples set up a comparison of an early shot at a lesser degree angle and a later shot at a greater degree, illustrating how a director like Spike Lee heightened the tension of Do the Right Thing as the film progressed.

It’s short, clocking in at under 3 min. Give it a watch.

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The Hypothetical Star Wars Holiday Special Begs a Philosophical, Literary Question

Can one parody the already absurd?

Long before 1999’s The Phantom Menace, George Lucas totally boffed the qualities that made Star Wars a phenomenon and instead created a boring, corny, absurd television special that he’s now refusing to admit exists. But it does. YouTube’s got it right here. Michael and I tried to watch it about five years ago. We made it about 40 minutes in before giving up entirely.fodholiday

But now Funny or Die has created a parody of the horror that is the Holiday Special using the new Force Awakens characters based on rumors and conjecture from the marketing materials for the new film. And they’ve kindly thrown together a short primer for those of you unfamiliar with the original so you can see the mimicked elements.

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Exploring Emotional Theory in Inside Out with the Nerdwriter

Evan Puschak, aka the Nerdwriter, has been busy, pumping out a deep look at culture, art, and society every Wednesday. About a week ago, he dropped an examination of Inside Out. He looks at the scientific emotional theory which inspired the film, its accuracies and inaccuracies, and other competing contemporary emotional theories.


The video is loaded with great information, but one of the most striking insights he offers is the way Riley’s mind also reflects our world. Her memory storage looks like a data center, and the scariest place in her brain isn’t the subconscious jail with her greatest fear inside but the void where memories are lost. This mirrors the anxieties of our world where one of the biggest concerns is data loss.

And in the end, he reaffirms what all us parents have loved about Inside Out since it premiered: it teaches solid emotional intelligence through archetypal characters.

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Earthling Cinema Goes For Synchronicity, Analyzes ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’

The premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is less than two weeks away, and it appears the anticipatory celebration of all things Star Wars has begun for reals. Like, the cool people finally showed up, and they’ve dimmed the lights for proper party conditions. For their part in the synchronicity, Earthling Cinema, still too classy to address the prequels, finishes their look at the original trilogy in their most recent episode. I’ve posted about Earthling Cinema’s take on Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The results are pretty fantastic.

Unsurprisingly since ROTJ is considered a subpar entry into the franchise compared to the first two, EC does mock it more mercilessly than the first two, and their analysis is likewise somewhat thinner. But as a fan of the film since its theater premiere, I can attest that the mockery is both cathartically satisfying and the analysis is intriguing.


In the video you’ll learn about musical leitmotifs, the connections between Endor and the Vietnam war, and the theme of technology vs. the natural. You’ll also get to enjoy the mockery of Star Wars as a one-woman show, the send-off of Boba Fett, and the reuse of plot elements from A New Hope. Plus lots of other lovely jokes I wouldn’t dare give away.

Entertain and edify yourself simultaneously!


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Interview with a Cipher

The Dinglehopper has apparently managed a little bit of notoriety for our enthusiasm about Paper Girls. We were contacted a couple weeks ago by Reed Beebe from Nothing But Comics, who interviewed us about unraveling the cipher and creating our decoder.

Paper Girls Time Traveler's Language Key

You can check out “DECIPHERING THE ALIEN TEXT IN PAPER GIRLS” here. Along with our responses, Reed talks about his own unique approach to solving the cipher. We were tickled when he let us know the interview had been mentioned on Comic Book Resources.


Podcast Review: Hardcore History – Blueprint for Armageddon

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History “Blueprint for Armageddon”

Blueprint for Armageddon

The Planet had not seen a major war between all the great powers since the downfall of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. But 99 years later the dam breaks and a Pandora’s Box of violence engulfs the planet.

In between audiobooks and coming off a Spotify binge, I was turned on to Hardcore History. By a comic book. Okay, by the writer’s notes for three pages of a comic book. People talk about going down the rabbit hole. What I’m in, what I’ve been in for most of my life, is more like a warren or a wild burrow. It’s all interconnected, see.

Anyway, the entire six podcast series “Blueprint for Armageddon”, about World War I, was recommended. I have some sparse history, broad enough to comprehend the scope of world affairs and specific enough in areas to have strong opinions. But the Great War was something awful that happened a hundred years ago when my grandparents were barely children. Not as visceral, nor as visually documented as World War II, and not something anyone I knew remembered with clarity. I was, am, ignorant is what I’m saying.

The podcast, this series anyway, is great. It’s like a history lecture by your favorite instructor ever. Drawing on multiple print sources and quoting (with citation) liberally, the listener gets a sense of what the war meant for the governments and generals as well as the common people involved in it. Dan Carlin freely admits that the truth is difficult to ascertain and frequently engages in armchair psychology.

But it’s all in the interest of telling the story well and trying to come to terms with it. And that’s not easy. There was a moment in Part III that broke me:

Christmas in the trenches! It was bitterly cold. We had procured a pine tree, for there were no fir trees to be had. We had decorated the tree with candles and cookies, and had imitated the snow with wadding.

Christmas trees were burning everywhere in the trenches, and at midnight all the trees were lifted on to the parapet with their burning candles, and along the whole line German soldiers began to sing Christmas songs in chorus. “0, thou blissful, 0, thou joyous, mercy bringing Christmas time!” Hundreds of men were singing the song in that fearful wood. Not a shot was fired; the French had ceased firing along the whole line. That night I was with a company that was only five paces away from the enemy. The Christmas candles were burning brightly, and were renewed again and again. For the first time we heard no shots. From everywhere, throughout the forest, one could hear powerful carols come floating over “Peace on earth—”

The French left their trenches and stood on the parapet without any fear. There they stood, quite overpowered by emotion, and all of them with cap in hand. We, too, had issued from our trenches. We exchanged gifts with the French—chocolate, cigarettes, etc. They were all laughing, and so were we; why, we did not know. Then everybody went back to his trench, and incessantly the carol resounded, ever more solemnly, ever more longingly—“O, thou blissful—”

All around silence reigned; even the murdered trees seemed to listen; the charm continued, and one scarcely dared to speak. Why could it not always be as peaceful? We thought and thought, we were as dreamers, and had forgotten everything about us. Suddenly a shot rang out; then another one was fired somewhere. The spell was broken. All rushed to their rifles. A rolling fire. Our Christmas was over.

A German Deserter’s War Experiences: Fighting for the Kaiser in the First World War – Julius Koettgen

Erin says she’s heard the story before. I suppose I reckon I have, too. She heard it on a Christmas album her mother had. The last four sentences were omitted. I didn’t even make it to them. It’s obvious what’s coming. It’s history. Carlin calls it a moment of the individual human spirit shining through, like a beacon in total darkness.

That’s more or less what he’s into. Well, in the context of military history, anyway. The extremes of human experience.

So it’s not a dry recitation of facts. I mean, you get plenty of those. You get descriptions of 300,000 pound war machines and the incalculable dead. You get troop movements and generals’ names. But Carlin doesn’t dwell on those. As above he draws from eyewitness accounts on both sides. He explores the cultural concerns of the world at large. He explains the political intricacies that lead each nation’s entrance into the war.

And he engages in interpretation.  As someone with an abiding love for narrative, for complex metafiction, that’s fine. Historians might, they do actually, take issue with some of Hardcore History‘s ambivalence or its conclusions.

However, I think there’s probably pleasure to be found in comparing even one’s own deep knowledge with the version or versions presented; actively engaging the information. For folks like me, with a some history and an interest in learning more but with a too-read pile that could be its own library, Hardcore History is a great resource. You have to start somewhere.

These podcasts, six in all, are not short sharp soundbites. Each is over three hours long. Expect depth and detail. There is some overlap and repetition, like any good narrative. It’s neither distracting nor unwelcome. I imagine I’ll move on to other installments from the series. “Blueprint for Armageddon” episodes are normally $1.99 on iTunes, but it’s currently free.

Recommended for fans of Walter Cronkite, military history, and Neal Stephenson.

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Wisecrack Illuminates The Brilliance of ‘Thriller’

wisecrackthrillerI love that Wisecrack is spreading their insight and humor to new areas. This week the team, fronted by Greg aka Sparky Sweets, PhD from Thug Notes, digs into the layers of awesome that makes #1 album of all time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

The examination celebrates the progressive intermixing of race and music genre via guest artists and images from music videos, delves into the music history that Jackson appropriates and advances, and discusses the innovations for narrative music videos in the much loved and mimicked “Thriller” video.

As a bonus, it illuminates the postmodern brilliance of Jackson’s best-selling album, a genre/style mishmash full of intertextual call outs.

My hope is that Wisecrack will continue to use their mad skills on music as well as literature, film, and philosophy.

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What If the New ‘Star Wars’ Sucks Too? Enjoy the Anticipation

What is making me happy? This blog from Deadspin writer Albert Burneko. In it he expresses the excitement upon seeing the new trailer that we all experienced, but with an underlying dread, a sneaking, indelible memory of the travesty that was the prequels. He goes on to suggest that Return of the Jedi had the seeds of the prequels’ decline into trash.


I agree with much but not all of what he says. Hate on the Ewoks all you want–I loved them. LOVED THEM.

But that’s not why you should read this. You should read it because Burneko’s voice is utterly hilarious. Full of profane, specific, insightful diction, he names what most fans cannot. I wore a grin during the entire reading, laughed audibly multiple times. If you are a fan of the Star Wars franchise, it’s worth your time.

The Concourse: What if the New ‘Star Wars’ Sucks, Too?

However, I do want to add an insight Michael had. It doesn’t really matter if the new film sucks. The joy is in the anticipation. And with that said, here’s a gif–it comes with no price.



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Nerdwriter Reveals New Insights in “Children of Men: Don’t Ignore the Background”

I’m a big fan of Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men. The film rewards re-watching and analysis as it is full of literary and artistic references to deliver its ever-more prescient view of the world’s near future. See my series here on its use of Wasteland/Fisher King Mythology.

When I found out that Nerdwriter–he whom I’ve been loving on lots lately–had done a video essay on the use of background in Children of Men, I was excited to see what he would say. I wasn’t exactly expecting to be surprised, but in fact, he did teach me a few new things. (I love learning new things!)


Evan Puschak’s video looks somewhat behind the main narrative of Kee and Theo to examine the backgrounds that frequently steal the camera’s attention. He delves into the imagery to elucidate not only the social narrative Cuaron has constructed but also the artistic allusions used to deepen the setting. From The Birth of Venus to Guernica to Pink Floyd’s Animals, Children of Men masterfully folds in cultural references to build the historical progression to the dystopia Theo lives in.

If you’re even a mild fan of this film, Nerdwriter’s video essay on its backgrounds is not to be missed.