movie

Andy Weir on The Martian, Artemis and more

Andy Weir on ‘The Martian,’ ‘Artemis’ and when we’ll live on the moon

This is a terrific interview by Edmund Lee with Andy Weir who wrote The Martian which was turned into a film and has now completed a new novel, Artemis.

Weir is a science fiction writer but he’s very much into the real science: he writes about a possible future but the current laws of physics apply, and for me, not a great fan of sci fi, this is a big piece of the appeal. His stories feel possible, even probable.

If you missed my post on Weir’s talk to a group of scientists at Lawrence Livermore Labs, I highly recommend watching it first as it goes into more detail about his writing process and the history of The Martian project.

Andy Weir talks to Lawrence Livermore Labs

Andy Weir talks to Lawrence Livermore Labs

This is a brilliant 45 minute talk by author Andy Weir on how he came to write his book, The Martian given to an audience at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

I’ve not read the book but enjoyed the heck out of the movie. Andy shares lots of great stuff from both the process of writing the book but also how the movie came to be made. He’s a smart, cocky, geeky dude who gives a great presentation.

This is really worth watching if you’ve read the book or seen the movie, but even if you haven’t, this will whet your appetite for both.

[via Steve Splonskowski]

Harper Lee and the cinematic life of To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee and the Cinematic Life of To Kill A Mockingbird

This is a great post on how the just published book, To Kill a Mockingbird got turned into a movie.

When Philadelphia-based publisher J.B. Lippincott Company decided to publish Harper Lee’s debut novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, the company requested an initial print run of just 5,000 copies. Nevertheless, upon its release in July 1960, the novel swiftly gained popularity and earned a place on the New York Times bestseller list. Unusual for a promising literary property, the motion picture rights to which were often sold before publication, To Kill a Mockingbird spent six weeks on the list before producer Alan J. Pakula and director Robert Mulligan acquired the rights to the book, which would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961.

Incredible book. Incredible movie. Incredible story.

Is Netflix about to drop DVDs (again)?

Let me preface this by saying I love Netflix: I love the process, I love the depth of their DVD library, I love their new streaming content, and coupled with AppleTV it’s a great service. When Netflix works right it’s one of the best services out there.

That said, in the past year they’ve been moving toward demoting their DVD service and it looks like they’re working on a way to drop it without causing as much of a stir as they did the last time they tried this (remember Qwikster?).

For a detailed history: Wikipedia: Netflix.

On their web site, the DVD queue is now a separate list and that part of their web site is at dvd.netflix.com.

When I called Netflix to report a problem getting DVDs in my queue I first got connected to someone from the streaming end, then I waited with muzak while they transferred me to the DVD end. This seems to point to the idea that they are less concerned with the DVD service than they have been in the past.

When I told Netflix about slow service they pointed to the US Post Office and it may be true that the Post Office is responsible for the slowness but its not responsible for the web site and the support phone tree. Something is going on.

One thing that’s happened in the past year is the US Post Office’s various services have changed, consolidated, and gotten worse. I love the Post Office and use it a lot but it doesn’t take heavy use to see that either they’re being starved by a Congress who won’t adequately fund them, and/or, they’re simply not a well run organization, or most probably, a bit of both.

In the old days (mid year last) the DVD disc turn around for Netflix was almost overnight for me. That has slid to a week or more.

Netflix says they’re working with the Post Office to resolve this but my guess is Reed Hastings (CEO) who tried to dump DVDs before and undid the change because of universal negative user feedback now has the cover to dump DVDs and I think he’s gearing up to do it.

This would be a shame because Netflix does not offer the depth in their streaming service that they do through DVDs. This is partly because the internet is feeling the strain of so much streaming, and partly because distribution agreements don’t allow streaming of all content.

If Netflix is going to offer a service, it ought to work correctly or they should fix it, and if they can’t fix it then drop it. This slowly cutting off the oxygen to the DVD service is a bad idea. Netflix has great content, but in my mind, the process is at least part of their product.

Valley Uprising

Valley Uprising is a well produced, entertaining, and informative history of rock climbing in Yosemite Valley, California.

I climbed there in the mid to late ’70s, know this history well and I think they got it right which is amazing for an old “trad” like me to say.

Excellent archival images and footage, great interviews with many of the historic figures (Steve Roper is hilarious), toward the present show extreme free climbing and free soloing on big walls, timely given what Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson have just accomplished on the Dawn Wall on El Capitan.

If you’re a Yosemite climber from any part of it’s history, you’ll enjoy this excellent documentary. Even my wife watched the entire thing and I was pretty much done with climbing by the time I met her, although we visited Yosemite Valley in 1990 as a family.

You can buy the DVD from Sender Films or on Amazon.

RIP Robin Williams

Robin Williams was a genius who took huge risks in his work which made it fantastic. Depression or, maybe in his case depression on the down side of mania is something that seems to go with his kind of genius.

He got an Oscar for his role in Good Will Hunting but frankly, I think his best role was in Good Morning Vietnam.

And, let’s not forget The Fisher King and The Birdcage, two roles that used different parts of his rare talent for improvisation.

Dead Poet’s Society and Awakenings also come to mind as roles that showed off his unique genius for getting inside both the dialogue and the body language of very different characters.

For me, a fascinating question about creative geniuses like Robin Williams is, in oder for them to take the kinds of risks they do in their work, do they also need to take similar risks in their lives? In other words, can one be an improvisational genius on stage and live a relatively quiet life off stage?

Who knows?

I’m going to miss Robin Williams’ rare genius.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball

I saw this trailer on Devour, found the documentary on Netflix and Anne and I watched it the other night.

The jaw-dropping true story of a real-life “Bad News Bears,” this inspiring documentary recounts the history of the Portland Mavericks, an independent professional baseball team that broke attendance records in 1973 with a roster that included a blacklisted former Yankee pitcher, a left-handed catcher, the sport’s first female general manager, and young movie star Kurt Russell, whose actor father Bing was the scrappy team’s owner.

I’m not a big sports fan and even though I lived in Eugene, Oregon during the time this team played in Portland, I’d never heard of them. That said, this documentary is a must. An amazing story, well told, about an amazing time and an amazing team.

El Capitan, the film

El Capitan, the film documents three climbers doing the classic Nose route in 1968 on the largest rock formation in Yosemite Valley, California: El Capitan.

This film is not full of hero shots, not full of free soloing and is humble compared with many modern films on Yosemite climbing (see embedded videos below). But, it documents in amazing detail what it’s like to climb the Nose route on El Capitan, still one of the classic big wall rock climbs on earth by three (four including the cameraman) pioneering and excellent climbers.

The cinematography by Glen Denny is incredible as is the sound reproduction. This climb was made before the invention of “clean climbing” so the climbers are carrying pitons and hammers and a lot of heavy gear and that gear clanks around, and all of those clanks are recorded and in the movie. Of course, Glenn Denny also did the climb with a lot of heavy film and sound gear which was and remains a feat in itself.

Here’s a great history of the project and review of the movie by Michael Ybarra for Alpinist: El Capitan: The Movie. Highly recommended.

I’ve owned the VHS (videotape) version of the movie El Capitan for a long time and I was extremely happy to find that the film was painstakingly transferred to digital video including blue-ray.

I climbed extensively in Yosemite ten years after this movie was shot. For more on my climbing history, see A Climbing Story. Yosemite was a magical place before it got overrun by too many tourists and too many climbers. No doubt it’s still magical but I like to think I experienced it during a more innocent time.

Yvon Chouinard and Glen Denny’s book: Yosemite in the Sixties has photographs of many of the pioneers of Yosemite climbing who were active just before this film was made. You can see more of Glen’s photographs here: Glen Denny.

Buy the DVD or Blue-ray of El Capitan

Western Eye Press
Amazon

A more modern El Capitan climb of the Nose route by Mark and Janelle Smiley:

The Nose on El Capitan from Mark Smiley on Vimeo.

A french team does the Nose route (the GoPro footage while a bit dizzying is useful for seeing what a climber sees):

The Nose – El Capitan from Capexpe on Vimeo.

Here’s Mark and Janelle Smiley on the Salathe Wall route on El Capitan (a more difficult climb):

Salathe – El Capitan, Yosemite from Mark Smiley on Vimeo.