Saturday, August 27, 2022

Seen in July 

Marcel, the small shell with the big heart.

I haven't seen all the big screen summer blockbusters but I've seen some of the small screen blockbusters. Yet with patience those big screen movies will appear on our smaller screens at home. Here's to the big screens and small screens. May all your screens bring you joy.

Some beasts are not really so fantastic.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
I'm not sure I can name a series of films so popular as the Harry Potter movies, where the continuation of the franchise fails worse and worse with each subsequent outing. Oh wait. The three Star Wars films where we learn the origins of Darth Vader. Yes, this film is as disappointing as that. It had no reason to fall on its face other than a failure to launch. The first film set up the second, the second ended without so much of a cliff hanger as a loose thread. The third just never gets going until the place it goes is entirely underwhelming. The entire plot of this movie revolves around "rigging of a magical election" by a criminal wizard. Yawn. The January 6 hearings have offered far greater entertainment. Surely this series in the Harry Potter franchise is done especially after suffering the downfall of two primary cast members due to their extracurricular legal difficulties (Johnny Depp's marital mess and accusations of grooming against Ezra Miller). Good night, Newt Scamander, we hardly knew you.

The Bubble
A comedy about a film crew attempting to finish a new installment in a popular fantasy-action franchise, set during a pandemic wherein the crew has to work within the bubble of the film set and a luxury hotel. Like the pandemic itself, the film is absurd, awkward and there were long periods of time when no one was laughing.

No Time to Die? Oh, there's always time for a little dying.

No Time To Die
It turns out, there is time to die, plenty of dying, in fact. So much dying. This is the latest Bond film and last one starring Daniel Craig as 007. One thing this Daniel Craig run has done much more successfully than previous "Bonds" is a continuity between the five films. This film did offer some fun surprises, such as what Bond's retirement looks like, another brief view of Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, Bond's 007 replacement, Ana de Armas as a novice agent who finds more than one way to be lethal in an evening gown and in keeping with this series, innovative yet less fantastical spy gadgets. At the end of the day, missions by these MI5 agents depend more on the abilities and sacrifices of individuals more than any deus ex macchina like an invisible car. The ultimate surprise of this Bond movie is the ultimate sacrifice, which reflects uncommonly high stakes compared to other franchise films these days.

Not just the series of the summer, but also the song.

Stranger Things S04
Last month I realized just how expensive my Netflix subscription has become. What was once a great bang for your buck had become a whole lot of buck for no bang. That is until the latest season of Stranger Things dropped bringing us more "Stephen King meets Steven Spielberg" vibes than we could ever imagine and the early song-of-the-summer, Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush, which was already the song-of-the-summer back in 1985. In this season, we find the cast spread out from California, to Indiana to the Soviet Union with multiple stories lines brought together in an over two-hour long finale. What we discover is that the evil from the Upside has persisted, the pre-teen friends' relationships are fraught by the challenges of their teen-age years and only by knowing what happened in the past can we see what to do on the road ahead. Be prepared to be shaken by cliff hangers and the fear of losing your most beloved characters. The Duffer Brothers, creators and directors of the series, are, in my opinion, worse than the villain Vecna, for how they manipulate us through nostalgic tunes, suspenseful endings, near misses and revelations. There is clearly only one answer: a fifth and final season!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Long Answer

Amsterdam, Weighing House.

Can you be there?

The short answer: maybe.

The long answer: In the year 1693 a guild of Dutch bankers and wealthy landowners, led by Johan Venthaagen, had determined a large investment in seaworthy vessels would ensure the supply of spices such as pepper and cinnamon from what we now call Indonesia. It became clear that such an investment would require a multi-component authentication system consisting of a wax seal and a porcelain copy of an account holder's tooth of their choosing, to be stored in separate locations obviously for integrity and security reasons…

Am I losing your attention? Of course I am. See? No one wants an intelligent, nuanced answer with historical context anymore!

For the fully nuanced long answer just subscribe to the six-part podcast coming this summer, brought to you by Square. Square - when you want to pay for something without having to touch money or make eye contact with anybody. Come close without touching with Square.
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