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Dumb and Dumber To‘s Badness Could Give You an Ulcer
By David Edelstein
Before I go into the grinding awfulness of Dumb and Dumber To, let‘s get one damn thing straight: The
original Dumb and Dumber is a clasick. Along with the relatively highbrow Stepbrothers, it‘s the ne
plus ultra of moron slapstick, the film against which all cretinous child-men assaults on taste must be
measured. The spiky, manic, abrasive Jim Carrey was exquisitely offset by the big, schlubby, amiable
Jeff Daniels, and if a few of the gags went thunk (who bats 1,000?), there was a lot more art in their
construction than the movie‘s slapdash frames suggested. The Farrelly brothers, Peter and Bobby,
turned doofusness into a state of grace. And now they‘ve turned it back into a state of gracelessness.
Wanna read the most annoying sound in the world? AAAEEEEEAAAEIIIIGGHHHHHEEEAAEHH.
It‘s not that they didn‘t try. This isn‘t some cynical piece of garbage like Another 48 Hrs. Carrey and
Daniels are in there working hard and almost getting their tricky rhythms back. On paper, the premise
sounds more than serviceable. Harry (Daniels), who desperately needs a kidney transplant, discovers a
23-year-old postcard from an old flame telling him she‘s pregnant with his baby. Said flame, Fraida
Felcher (Kathleen Turner), tells Harry and Lloyd (Carrey) that she gave the baby up for adoption but has
a recent photo; it shows a young woman, Penny (Rachel Melvin), who makes Lloyd‘s eyeballs smoke.
Lloyd convinces Harry to hit the road in search of Penny — ostensibly to ask her to donate a kidney, but
more because Lloyd sees a babe who might finally displace Dumb and Dumber‘s Mary Swanson. But
someone else is after Penny: a killer (Rob Riggle) in league with her adopted mom (Laurie Holden), who‘s
slowly poisoning Penny‘s adopted professor father (Steve Tom), who gives Harry and Lloyd a package for
her that might be worth billions of dollars ...
The script could have used another draft or two. Harry and Lloyd‘s level of dumb and dumbness keeps
shifting; sometimes they sound like sophisticates camping it up — unfunnily. The old gags aren‘t
repeated, but the Farrellys constantly invoke them, using their first film as an ongoing reference point.
―Blind Billy in 4C‖ is all grown up and still loves birds — with disastrous consequences. We get the
second-most-annoying sound in the world. (What‘s annoying is how long it takes to get to the punch
line.) Lame malapropisms abound: ―She‘s the fruit of his loom.‖ Lloyd fantasizes fighting off bad guys to
save Penny, but it‘s a pale echo of Lauren Holly‘s bare bum and a throbbing heart pulled out of a ninja
warrior and daintily dropped into a doggie bag. Harry puts peanut butter on his dick. Penny turns out
to have inherited the Dumb gene and wants to work in a leprechaun colony. Okay, that one‘s not bad
(especially when Lloyd says you have to go to Ireland, not Africa, for that), but I reckon four out of every
five jokes played to silence at the preview screening. If Dumb and Dumber To were a live comedian, he‘d
have said, ―Is this an audience or an oil painting?‖ He‘d have left the stage in tears. He‘d have gone to
work in a leprechaun colony.
The Farrellys have evidently unlearned what little they knew about staging and composition. (Please
understand: I revere Dumb and Dumber, There‘s Something About Mary, Shallow Hal, and parts of
their other movies, but stylists they‘re never been.) On the far side of the Farrellys‘ agreeable Three
Stooges remake, it‘s easy to register the Stooges‘ influence on Dumb and Dumber To, but the timing is
off in almost every scene: You either see the joke an instant before it comes, so it‘s no surprise, or an
instant after it passes, so you say, ―Oh, that was a joke ... Gee, it stunk.‖ The key to Lloyd and Harry‘s
characters is that they‘re incorrigible pranksters, that nothing comes second to hot-footing each other
or someone else. But this time we feel more like the hit man played by Mike Starr in Dumb and
Dumber. We want to say, ―GUYS!!! ENOUGH!!!‖ The movie‘s badness could give you an ulcer.
And yet ... I came away respecting Carrey, whose eyes still glitter under his hideous bowl haircut and
Daniels, who avidly jumps back into the pigpen. (Daniels might be known for a higher grade of project,
but he has always credited Dumb and Dumber with keeping his movie career alive and obviously
relishes the work.) Kathleen Turner is fearlessly brassy; it‘s a shame she‘s shot and lighted so poorly,
that the Farrellys didn‘t protect her. I didn‘t watch thinking that Dumb and Dumber To was fated to be
a disaster from its conception — only that comedy is famously hard and this particular effort didn‘t pay
off. I‘d still get in line for Dumber and Dumbest.

The Movies of 1994: The Near-Perfect ‗Dumb and Dumber‘
November 13, 2014
by Tom Carson
All of these years later, nobody has made a movie about Monica Lewinsky‘s affair with Bill Clinton, and
I wish someone would hop to it. Sarah Silverman isn‘t getting any younger, people. But you can‘t beat
my pick for the right guys to handle the job: Bobby and Peter Farrelly — at least if we could somehow
time-zap ‘em back to their prime. Closet innocence fans disguised as merchants of crass, they were so
in sync with the Clinton era‘s Krispy Kreme gestalt that the nation‘s first (spiritually) 12-year-old
president — if the Secret Service code name for the White House in Bill‘s instant-gratification heyday
wasn‘t ―The Cookie Jar,‖ it shoulda been — sometimes seems like a ghost character haunting their ‘90s
movies. Heck, so does Monica.
Getting the sequel treatment with Dumb and Dumber To this week, Dumb and Dumber came first,
followed by Kingpin (which the Farrellys didn‘t write) and then There‘s Something About Mary — their
biggest hit, thanks mostly to Cameron Diaz‘s hair-gel misadventures with Ben Stiller‘s homemade
Krispy Kreme icing.
The Movies of 1994
Grantland takes on a golden year in cinema.
Released the same year that a certain stain on someone‘s blue dress was getting the House GOP in an
uproar, it must have been the first time someone‘s jism was employed as a sight gag in a mainstream
comedy, forever cementing — well, so to speak — the Farrellys‘ rude-boy rep. But the movie‘s use of
rock‘s ultimate Mr. Innocent, Jonathan Richman, as its singing narrator amounted to an admirably
sneaky way of foregrounding old-fashioned schmaltz while making someone else responsible for voicing
it. That way, it didn‘t intrude on the jokes.
As if demonstrating how fragile a gestalt can be, things started to go south with 2000‘s Me, Myself &
Irene, a movie that nobody on either side of the camera seemed to have much heart for. (D&D star Jim
Carrey probably didn‘t think he‘d end up needing to go back to the Farrellys for a cred transfusion any
more than they thought they‘d need to go back to him for box office insurance, and neither camp got
what it wanted.) Though the brothers recouped to some extent with Shallow Hal, an apologia for their
own perceived callousness that might‘ve turned painfully saccharine if not for Jack Black‘s mad-eyed
zest in the title role, the old mojo has never returned in their later movies. Maybe they‘re waiting for
In the meantime, I wish Dumb and Dumber To all the best, really I do. If nothing else, I‘ll bet sight
unseen that it‘s less rotten than 2003‘s Dumb and Dumberer, which nobody from the original was
involved in. But the odds are that the 2014 reprise wouldn‘t exist if the brothers, not to mention Carrey,
couldn‘t really use a hit 20 mostly not-so-great years down the road. And I hope they don‘t mess up my
memories of a movie that I think is close to perfect.
This side of, oh, Billy Wilder‘s Some Like It Hot,1 ―perfect‖ is a word that doesn‘t get applied to post1930s screen comedies, even beloved ones, too often. Let alone one that has Carrey‘s Lloyd Christmas
fantasizing about charming the daylights out of a roomful of rich sophisticates, his inamorata included,
by lighting his own farts. But there isn‘t a scene, including that one, or a performance that doesn‘t
deliver exactly what the Farrellys want it to. You aren‘t sitting through weak ideas or misfired
digressions to get to the good parts, the way we‘re all used to.
Considering that (a) the Farrellys had never directed before, and (b) Dumb and Dumber‘s tone is a lot
trickier to sustain than it looks, the absence of vacillation and visibly panicky second thoughts about

the whole premise is impressive. Yet what may be more remarkable is how the movie stays patently
good-hearted without ever resorting to sentiment.
The goal is to get audiences feeling huge tenderness for people we‘re primed to think are ridiculous, and
we do. But that doesn‘t mean they‘ve grown any less ridiculous, because — well, at least back then —
the brothers weren‘t big on redeeming anyone. Instead, the movie sets out to beguile us into cherishing
them just as they are, the same way that John Waters used to with his more flagrant casts of freaks
and oddballs.
My guess is most of you won‘t need a plot refresher, but here it goes anyway. Lloyd and his best — that
is, only — pal Harry (Jeff Daniels) start out sharing a forlorn pad in Providence, Rhode Island, working
no-brainer jobs they keep getting fired from on the grounds of idiocy. Then Lloyd ends up in possession
of a briefcase belonging to a rich Aspen gal named Mary (Lauren Holly), little knowing that he‘s just
botched the ransom payoff intended for her husband‘s kidnappers.
Having instantly decided that he‘s moony about her, Lloyd talks Harry into driving to Colorado to return
the briefcase, since his pard is the one with wheels — a van irresistibly outfitted to look like a literal
shaggy dog, thanks to Harry‘s yen to open a pet-grooming store. Naturally, the kidnappers‘ hired guns
— Mike Starr as Joe ―Mental‖ Mentalino and Karen Duffy as his slinky accomplice, J.P. Shay — are in
hot pursuit after panicking our boys, who think they‘re being dunned for an unpaid utilities bill, and
decapitating Harry‘s pet parakeet on a visit to the pair‘s, ahem, lodgings.
The parakeet‘s posthumous fate — Lloyd sells it to a trusting blind boy after Scotch-taping its wee head
back on — is the sickest joke in the movie. But if Dumb and Dumber celebrates anything, which it
does, it‘s the slogan promoted by the hero of Kurt Vonnegut‘s Slapstick: ―Lonesome no more!‖ Given
how abject Lloyd and Harry are, isn‘t it great that they‘re a team? There‘s hope for misfits everywhere in
Sad sacks who prevail have been a screen staple since the silent era. But comedy duos usually depend
on contrast to get laughs: goofball Jerry Lewis vs. urbane Dean Martin, dreamy Laurel vs. practicalminded Hardy, and so on. The Marx Brothers and the Farrellys‘ beloved Three Stooges play off the same
friction in triplicate. That‘s why the beauty — and even, to some extent, the daring — of Dumb and
Dumber is that Harry is only slightly less IQ-challenged than Lloyd, and spends a lot less time getting
exasperated with him than sharing his wavelength and endorsing his dreams. Whatever becomes of
these two, they‘ll never be able to complain that nobody understands them. That‘s the magnificent side
of their duncey bond.
If you‘re in any doubt of how astute the Farrellys are about which relationship is the key one, recall the
tellingly hands-off way that Lloyd‘s intended one and only is presented. Mary may be his love object, but
she‘s not ours, despite her money and good looks — two assets the movie doesn‘t have a great deal of
use for. (Neither one depends on personality, and that settles that.) It‘s no disappointment that Lloyd
doesn‘t wind up with her; in fact, Dumb and Dumber would have an unhappy ending if he did. What we
want is what we get: him and Harry on the road again, blithely bungling the opportunity of their dimwit
lifetimes in one of the sweetest codas in movies.
Aside from There‘s Something About Mary, which plays a lot more by the rom-com rules — hair-gel
jokes and all — most women I know are allergic to the Farrellys, which is no big surprise. Yet compared
to the rancid gynophobia animating so many guy-oriented yuk-fests — or, hell, the culture at large —
the brothers are sweetie pies.

Not that anyone‘s going to hire them to direct a Susan B. Anthony biopic anytime soon. In a way that‘s
not only retro but consciously lunkheaded, they — just like their heroes — aren‘t unfond of women so
much as bamboozled by their existence. Ever since Betty Friedan, every woman has known that
mystification is dehumanization‘s pilot fish; not all of the reasons that frat boys love these movies are
good ones, of course. And yet what keeps the Farrellys‘ version relatively innocuous is that it‘s never
hostile. D&D‘s Mary may not be swooned over by the filmmakers, but she is kind to Lloyd at crunch
time. The movie doesn‘t expose her as a selfish bitch to turn us against her, which would be the go-to
stratagem if authentic yobs were in charge.
The Farrellys aren‘t often accused of being subtle. Nonetheless, it‘s worth noting how the values of what
we weren‘t yet calling the 1 Percent are satirized almost exclusively via Lloyd and Harry‘s attempts to
emulate them once our heroes discover — by mishap, needless to say — that the briefcase they‘ve
lugged across the country is stuffed with cash. The parody of Pretty Woman‘s shopping spree ridicules
the audience‘s internalization of those values as well. Even Luis Buñuel might have cackled at the sight
of Lloyd and Harry swanking it up in their eyesore finery.
Not accidentally, the switch also gives Carrey and Daniels oodles of fresh comedy business to play with
right when they‘re close to exhausting the fun of the Lloyd-Harry partnership. Or Carrey is, anyhow,
because he hasn‘t grasped — and really, never would — that a feature-length movie is something other
than an extended skit. His costar is another story, and one of the treats of revisiting Dumb and Dumber
is that the guy who gets my vote for best living American actor is in it.
Coming off Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask, Carrey was movieland‘s hottest marquee name at
the time, so he naturally got most of the attention. But man, is Jeff Daniels a marvel. First off, he‘s got
to make the duo‘s best-buds intimacy convincing pretty much on his own, because Carrey — with his
stand-up-comic solipsism — never had any gift for playing off his castmates, let alone standing back to
let them shine. It‘s the real reason he never developed as an actor; after he‘d been at it a decade, it
never occurred to Carrey to react to Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, even though
she was tossing him vibrant stuff to die for. No wonder his big bids for Oscar consideration — The
Truman Show, Man on the Moon — were solo turns.
While Carrey‘s shtick as Lloyd is often inspired — he works that chipped tooth and bowl haircut the
way Peyton Manning manages a football — shtick is still what it is. You‘re never unconscious that he‘s
doing a routine, which doesn‘t hurt the movie particularly. By contrast, Daniels doesn‘t have stardom‘s
pressure to contend with. Doughy-faced and kudzu-haired (it‘s wonderful how the Mutt Cutts van and
he resemble each other), he damn near convinces you that he‘s been Harry all of his life.
It‘s as incredible to remember that Daniels was fresh off playing noble Joshua Chamberlain in
Gettysburg the year before as it is to realize he‘d go on to incarnating, say, the smart-and-smarter
parental dilemmas of The Squid and the Whale. But you‘d have to be awfully pretentious to think that
being the heart and soul of Dumb and Dumber is a lesser achievement. He‘s got moments — Harry
helplessly cracking up as he asks Lloyd to kiss him, for instance — that are as lovely as any comic
acting on film, and the movie could replace Carrey more easily (the young Adam Sandler might have
done fine) than it could do without Daniels.
Funnily enough, Daniels is also the only member of Dumb and Dumber‘s talent pool whose career has
stayed in the ascendant. (Let‘s forgive him The Newsroom; being a ventriloquist‘s dummy for Aaron
Sorkin would put a damper on just about anybody‘s lust for life.) Carrey lost me well before his box
office slide in the aughts, and he hasn‘t looked like being Jim Carrey strikes even him as much fun ever
since Me, Myself & Irene added flop sweat to his manic mode. Much as I love the Farrellys, the last
movie of theirs I paid any heed to was 2003‘s Stuck on You, which tried to resurrect their only real
passion — telling the world what it‘s like to be brothers — by casting Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear as
Siamese twins. But then, as Orson Welles coulda told them, it‘s not easy to regroup for the long game
when your first movie said it all.
Op-Ed: The Disney Vault needs to be reopened for the HD era
Op-Ed: The Disney Vault needs to be reopened for the HD era

Disney has always had an odd relationship with its past, which the company treats as both its greatest
resource and as a zone to which only a few have access. For decades, Disney has re-released its most
famous features to theaters about every seven years—often enough, the theory went, to catch a new
generation each time around. The rest of the time, they remained in what the company dubbed ―The
Disney Vault.‖ (Incidentally, if you can hear the term ―Disney Vault‖ without thinking of this ―TV
Funhouse‖ short, that just means you probably haven‘t seen it yet.)
The policy, which has been carried over first to Disney VHS, then DVD, and, most recently, Blu-ray
releases, makes a certain amount of sense business-wise, creating a sense of scarcity and specialness
around films from Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs to Beauty And The Beast. It‘s not like the features
ever disappeared—well, most of the features, anyway—they just weren‘t always at hand. Eventually,
they‘d all be let out of the vault.
The same can‘t be said, however, for Disney‘s animated shorts, the cornerstone on which Walt Disney
built what would become the empire we know today. Noel Murray has a column today about the old,
weird Disney, all of which would be hard to see if it weren‘t for Disney‘s relatively relaxed policy toward
YouTube uploads. But the hard-to-seeness also extends to the many delightful shorts featuring Mickey
Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and all the other characters still plastered on pieces
of Disney merchandise. It‘s not that Disney hasn‘t continued to use these characters, which live on in
everything from the pre-school-targeted Club Mickey Mouse to a series of clever new Mickey Mouse
cartoons. But it still seems odd, even wrong to keep so many entertaining cartoons away from the
current generation of kids. (And, hey, I‘ve road-tested them with my own toddler. They still play
This wasn‘t always so: From 2001 to 2009, the double-disc DVD sets of the Walt Disney Treasures
series offered thoughtful packages of Disney‘s cartoons (and TV shows and bits of ephemera) assembled
and hosted with the occasional note of caution about old cartoons not always squaring with
contemporary sensibilities by Leonard Maltin. They‘re exemplary collections, but their limited pressings
often made them hard to track down not long after their release, and they now sometimes go for
upwards of $100 on Amazon and in other secondhand markets.
Not only should they be brought back into print, they should be given a good dusting off for the HD era,
which has made the features look better than they ever have on home video. Some of the shorts have
resurfaced on Netflix and as bonus features on Disney Blu-rays for Snow White, Beauty And The Beast,
and other titles, but they deserve a more comprehensive, Disney Treasures-style approach, if not for
physical media, then for HD streaming packages of some sort. (Though, ahem, both Pixar and Disney‘s
old rivals at Warner Bros. have put together nice sets of shorts for Blu-ray release.)
When Frozen played theaters last year it was accompanied by the delightful ―Get A Horse!,‖ a Mickey
Mouse short the combined the hand-drawn, black-and-white animation of Mickey‘s earliest days with
21st-century computer animation. It paid tribute to Mickey‘s long history by letting the past and
present live side-by-side harmoniously. The company responsible for it should find a way to do the
Fall TV Trade Machine: Making All the Moves That Fix the Biggest Problems of a Troubled Season
Illustration by Linsey Fields
November 12, 2014
by Andy Greenwald
In the long, hot summer of 2013, we here at Grantland introduced the Fantasy TV Trade Machine as a
way to simultaneously kill time and save the shows we loved. It was a fun diversion, nothing more.

Then, last fall, the Machine took on a more pressing responsibility: If used correctly, it could serve as an
instruction manual for fixing new network shows before it was too late. Tweaking them while they still
had that factory scent — and before they were resigned to the remainder bin by unimpressed viewers —
would benefit all involved: the overtaxed networks, the underused actors, and, most of all, the skeptical
audience. The goal of the Grantland Fantasy TV Trade Machine is to make every show better. Its
bedrock belief is that such a thing is possible. The Machine‘s only rule? Do no harm.1 (Its existential
irony: There is no actual machine. Not yet, anyway.)
This fall, I looked at a historically weak slate of broadcast shows not as a challenge but as an
opportunity. Surely, with a few performers swapped here and there, even the saddest turkey could
become a soaring eagle! Of course, I may have waited a bit too long to find out: The fall season‘s biggest
turkeys have already been led to the slaughterhouse. (That didn‘t stop me from raiding the corpse of
Selfie for expiring contracts and spare parts.) So the series I fed through the Machine aren‘t the worst of
the lot, but merely the most frustrating. I honestly believe they are all capable of improvement.2 As I
started gaming out trade scenarios, I soon realized that a series of simple one-for-one swaps wouldn‘t
suffice. The problems of these freshmen shows were too ingrained, the miscasting too severe. Once I
began moving pieces around, the process began to look like a game of dominos. Saving Mulaney meant
disrupting Marry Me. But messing with Marry Me offered a window of hope for The Affair. And so on.
There‘s a chance this looks confusing. There‘s a chance it looks like madness. But there‘s also a chance
that it‘s all so crazy that it just might work.
Remember, no actual actors were harmed in the making of this fantasy trade list. (Though quite a few
egos were likely bruised.) We trade because we love. And boy, do we love to trade.
THE SHOW: Mulaney
John Mulaney
Nasim Pedrad
Seaton Smith
Zack Pearlman
Elliott Gould
Martin Short
THE PROBLEM: Everyone loves John Mulaney — as a writer for Saturday Night Live, where he helped
tweak Stefon; as a stand-up comedian; and as a polite, well-dressed human being. Unfortunately, not
many people feel the same way about Mulaney, the multi-cam sitcom currently dying a slow and very
public death on Fox‘s Sunday night. Though the series has improved since its debut, the ratings have
not, leading the network to shave its season order from 16 to 13.3 Fox seems committed to airing the
remaining episodes, but a second season is both unlikely and, as of yet, undeserved. With its stilted
rhythms and hit-and-miss humor, Mulaney has been unable to make a case for either its throwback
style or its own existence. A drastic shake-up is needed. Luckily, that‘s exactly what I‘ve got.
Fox receives Casey Wilson (from Marry Me, NBC) and John Cho (expiring contract from Selfie, ABC).
CBS receives Seaton Smith (to Scorpion) and Zack Pearlman (to Stalker).
AMC receives Elliott Gould (to Halt and Catch Fire).
John Mulaney

Nasim Pedrad
Casey Wilson
John Cho
Martin Short
THE RATIONALE: I‘ve spoken to John Mulaney twice now and I‘m swayed by his unapologetic love for
the multi-cam comedies of his youth. More important, I‘m convinced by his talent and abilities that, if
given one more chance, he could transform Mulaney into a sitcom worthy of that legacy. So if you, too,
are willing to accept all of that — and judging by the ratings, you are definitely not — then let‘s take it a
step further. If the problem with Mulaney isn‘t the format, it is definitely the context. Right now,
Mulaney is trying (and failing!) to be two shows at once: an apartment-based comedy about wacky
roommates and a workplace-based comedy about a nutty boss. Mulaney himself is the only connective
thread between these two worlds, which is a problem since (1) even he would likely tell you that he‘s the
weakest performer on his own show, and (2) TV‘s ―John Mulaney‖ is, thus far, a sweatered cipher
without many characteristics to call his own.
My solution? Mulaney needs to pick sides, and it‘s not the one you may think. Despite the assertion of
former Fox boss Kevin Reilly, Mulaney is not ―Seinfeld for a new generation.‖ But it could still be 30
Rock for a broader audience. Mulaney‘s sharply observed stand-up bits, about procuring Xanax and
accidentally chasing women through the subway, simply don‘t translate well to teleplays, and especially
not when they‘re needlessly neutered in the process. Focusing on the professional instead of the
personal would allow Mulaney to draw a bright line between the jokes he tells onstage and the jokes he
can mine from his years of experience in Studio 8H. So let‘s dispatch the talented but ill-served Seaton
Smith (he‘ll be fine on Scorpion; see below) and the intensely aggravating Zack Pearlman (he‘ll be lit on
fire on Stalker). Elliott Gould is a wonderful actor, but totally wasted here as a gay neighbor whose
primary personality trait is that he‘s gay. Off to the greener (and more creative) pastures of cable with
you! As far as I‘m concerned, Mulaney now sleeps at the office.
So let‘s get to work. Right now on Mulaney, Martin Short is hamming it up as Lou Cannon, the host of a
C-grade quiz show. I wouldn‘t make him any more kosher, but I‘d promote Lou to the host of his own
late-night talk show. John Mulaney is, as now, an ambitious, morally questionable new hire to the
writer‘s room. I‘d keep Nasim Pedrad in the mix — she‘s the best thing on the current version of
Mulaney — but add her to Lou‘s staff, perhaps as his PA. (It‘s already in continuity for Lou to like her!
Not that anyone but me is keeping track of Mulaney continuity.) With Selfie canceled, John Cho is
suddenly available. Let‘s bring him in as Lou‘s overtaxed producer. And, to add romantic spark and
conflict, let‘s rescue Casey Wilson from the squawking ship that is NBC‘s Marry Me. That show has an
even better pedigree than Mulaney — it‘s the baby of Wilson‘s husband, Happy Endings creator David
Caspe — and, so far, it also has better ratings. But, somewhat perversely, I still think Mulaney has
more potential. On Marry Me, Wilson is flopsweating through nearly every scene, keeping a listing,
unpleasant series afloat through sheer force of comedic will. On Mulaney, she could take a breath.
Besides, the less physical type of backstabbing required to survive behind the scenes of a late-night
institution is probably something she could play in her sleep.
I‘m setting my imaginary DVR for this never-gonna-happen version of Mulaney as I type. It was never
going to be a world-changing sitcom, but this way it could, at least, be an entertaining one. But, wait, if
Casey Wilson is on Mulaney, what does that mean for …
THE SHOW: Marry Me
Marry Me - Season PilotNBC
Casey Wilson
Ken Marino
John Gemberling
Sarah Wright Olsen

Tymberlee Hill
Tim Meadows
Dan Bucatinsky
THE PROBLEM: As explained above, Marry Me is a hysterical sitcom in all the wrong ways. With its
Adderall pacing and relentless cheer, it‘s not making me laugh so much as it‘s making me exhausted.
Worse, the ensemble gathered around the solid leads is Exhibit A for the slapdash casting — part
desperation, part shrug — that is sinking contemporary network sitcoms. I don‘t believe that John
Gemberling‘s obnoxious, self-loathing beardo exists in the same universe as Sarah Wright Olsen‘s type
A diva. I don‘t believe they exist at all.
NBC receives Dominic West (from The Affair, Showtime) and Da‘Vine Joy Randolph (expiring contract
from Selfie, ABC).
AMC receives John Gemberling, Sarah Wright Olsen, and Tymberlee Hill (all to The Walking Dead).
Ken Marino
Dominic West
Da‘Vine Joy Randolph
Stephen Guarino
Tim Meadows
Dan Bucatinsky
THE RATIONALE: So far, none of 2014‘s heavily hyped sit-rom-coms have worked — and that includes
Marry Me. So why not try a fresh approach? Let‘s keep the romance and the impending nuptials, but
swap the gender. Ken Marino remains as the everydude-ish Jake, but now he‘s hopelessly in love with
Jimmy, a loud and proud British expat played by Dominic West. After his five years of urban blight and
frustration in Baltimore and one miserable summer in the Hamptons, I feel like West has earned the
right to laugh — and he‘s proved he‘s capable of inspiring it in others.
Tim Meadows and Dan Bucatinsky remain as a long-married gay couple, but instead of serving as
emotional soundproofing for Wilson‘s freak-outs, they‘re now Marino and West‘s neighbors, acting as
sounding boards and role models for a happy, long-term relationship. Stephen Guarino — already
reprising his memorable role from Happy Endings — now makes even more sense in the regular cast as
one of Marino‘s exes. And Da‘Vine Joy Randolph was a surprise breakout from Selfie‘s shortened run.
Let‘s add her to the mix as West‘s immigration attorney turned confidante. I‘m not sure this version of
Marry Me is better than what‘s currently on TV, but it‘s certainly more interesting.
But wait, you say. If Dominic West is getting hitched over here, what does that mean for …
THE SHOW: The Affair
Dominic West
Maura Tierney
Ruth Wilson
Joshua Jackson
THE PROBLEM: There are a lot of things that rub me the wrong way about The Affair: the lack of
humor, the ponderous pacing, the sheer amount of Pacey. But the aspect of the show that rankles most

is the miscasting. Dominic West is an exceptional actor, but he‘s entirely wrong for the part of a selfproclaimed ―neurotic‖ Brooklyn novelist. And Joshua Jackson was far more believable as a clone stolen
from an alternate dimension than he is as a horse rancher. Thanks to these stumbles, The Affair is
stilted when it should be sexy, confusing when it needs to be compelling. I know the show was just
renewed for a second season. But in TV Trade Machine world, it‘s never too late to blow it up and start
Showtime receives Scoot McNairy (from Halt and Catch Fire, AMC), Michael Cudlitz (from The Walking
Dead, AMC), and Emily Mortimer (expiring contract from The Newsroom, HBO).
AMC receives Maura Tierney (to The Walking Dead) and Joshua Jackson (to Halt and Catch Fire).
NBC receives Dominic West (to Marry Me).
Scoot McNairy
Emily Mortimer
Ruth Wilson
Michael Cudlitz
THE RATIONALE: Scoot McNairy is one of the most interesting young-ish actors working today. As good
as he is as a bottled-up programmer on AMC‘s so-so Halt and Catch Fire, he could be considerably
better as a nebbishy novelist ready to explode. As president and chief operating officer of the Emily
Mortimer Fan Club,4 I‘m all too happy to free her from the sanctimonious shackles of The Newsroom.
She has onscreen experience being cuckolded from her time in Match Point, a role that also allowed her
to be entirely self-possessed and sympathetic. These are skills that will come in handy in what still
appears to be a rather thankless role. But the move I‘m most excited about is the addition of Michael
Cudlitz. Strong and soulful, he‘s been a revelation on this drastically improved season of The Walking
Dead — and, given that show‘s turnover, I can‘t imagine he‘ll be sticking around all that long. Dropping
him into the placid waters of The Affair is like tossing a cannonball into a puddle. Not only does he
make for a far more plausible rancher than Jackson, but the difference in age with Wilson and the
difference in physicality with McNairy also add a new level of menace to what has been, thus far, a far
too polite show.
Bonus: There‘s no need to worry too much about the survivors whom Cudlitz just left behind, because

THE SHOW: The Walking Dead
walking_dead_lincoln_gunGene Page/AMC
THE PROBLEM: There isn‘t one. In its fifth season, The Walking Dead is better than it‘s ever been. So
why is it all over this column? Because no show on television is more vital to the TV Trade Machine
project than The Walking Dead. Thanks to the demands of its premise, the series gobbles up fresh meat
like … well, you know. And so, like a cagey GM, TWD involves itself in nearly every trade — Hoovering
up expiring contracts, selling high on reclamation projects, and accepting nearly every stiff on offer. In
this, the show reminds me of my beloved Philadelphia 76ers: Everyone is a potential asset; no one is
ever untouchable. What matters is the long-term plan, not the personalities involved.
AMC receives Maura Tierney and, like, two extra children (from The Affair, Showtime); Elyes Gabel,
Jadyn Wong, and Ari Stidham (from Scorpion, CBS); Alana De La Garza (from Forever, ABC); and John
Gemberling, Sarah Wright Olsen, and Tymberlee Hill (from Marry Me, NBC).

Showtime receives Michael Cudlitz (to The Affair)
ABC receives Sonequa Martin-Green and Tyler James Williams (to Forever)
THE RATIONALE: I really like this spot for Maura Tierney. She‘s a beloved TV actress, equally adept at
comedy and drama. The one opportunity she hasn‘t yet been given in her long and circuitous career is a
chance to kick ass — or at least saw off a couple of heads. There‘s a steely toughness underneath
Tierney‘s pleasant veneer. It was there on ER, and it was certainly evident in her own personal life when
she overcame cancer in 2010. Put a pistol in her hand, take away her conditioner, and she‘ll fit right in
with The Walking Dead‘s ragtag group of survivors.
As for everyone else? Well, zombies gotta eat.
THE SHOW: Forever
Ioan Gruffudd
Alana De La Garza
Joel David Moore
Donnie Keshawarz
Lorraine Toussaint
Judd Hirsch
THE PROBLEM: Unlike many shows, Forever knew exactly what it was from the start. It‘s a light,
general-interest drama designed to entertain, to occasionally charm, and, above all, to run six seasons
in highly profitable cultural anonymity. (Let‘s call this the Bones corollary.) Unfortunately, Forever has
proved to be a bit too low-key. After a surprisingly robust debut, the ratings have sunk to the point at
which the show‘s title may prove to be more ironic than prophetic. This would be a shame. Forever isn‘t
great, but it‘s not trying to be. On the broadcast networks these days, good is plenty good enough.
ABC receives Sonequa Martin-Green and Tyler James Williams (from The Walking Dead, AMC) and
Archie Panjabi (from The Good Wife, CBS).
AMC receives Alana De La Garza (to The Walking Dead) and Joel David Moore (to Halt and Catch Fire).
Ioan Gruffudd
Sonequa Martin-Green
Tyler James Williams
Donnie Keshawarz
Archie Panjabi
Lorraine Toussaint
Judd Hirsch
THE RATIONALE: The gentle banter between Ioan Gruffudd‘s ageless Henry Morgan and Judd Hirsch‘s
well-aged Abe is pleasant, but not nearly enough to fuel an entire series. And so the first order of
business is replacing the perfectly adequate Alana De La Garza with the potentially extraordinary
Sonequa Martin-Green. I say ―potentially‖ because in her two-plus seasons as Sasha on The Walking
Dead, Martin-Green has shuttled between the background and the foreground. Sometimes she‘s the
show‘s emotional center, her vengeful fury muted by her tender affection for Larry Gilliard Jr.‘s Bob.

Other times, she‘s stuck mopping up other people‘s messes — or their misses. The one constant is that,
no matter what she‘s doing, Martin-Green demands our attention. As Dr. Morgan‘s new partner (and, of
course, inevitable love interest), she‘d add a shot of adrenaline to a show in danger of slipping into a
coma. For similar reasons, I‘m swapping one three-named actor for another in the role of Henry‘s
awkward assistant. Joel David Moore is fine, but I have him tagged for better things on cable. Tyler
James Williams, the former star of Everybody Hates Chris, is having a moment just now, with a strong
turn on The Walking Dead and a leading role in Dear White People. There‘s no downside to either. But
Williams‘s upside is higher than Forever‘s current, distressingly low ceiling.
In addition to a pulse, Forever also lacks a worthy adversary. Since its September premiere, the show
has been teasing viewers with the shadowy presence of ―Adam,‖ an unseen killer who claims to be
afflicted with the same immortality bug as Henry. Well, bully for him. Despite its title, Forever doesn‘t
have time to dilly-dally with somnolent cases of the week. It needs an interesting villain and it needed
him yesterday. Or should I say her? There‘s no reason Adam can‘t be a pseudonym of Eve, Henry‘s true
immortal foil. As for casting, I can think of no better candidate than Archie Panjabi, soon-to-be-late of
The Good Wife. Panjabi plays a complicated heroine (more or less) on that show, but it‘s high time she
steered into the skid of her terrible press. (Nothing has ever been said on the record, but there has to be
a reason the only actor still willing to share scenes with Panjabi is an iPhone 5.) If Panjabi can strike
fear into the hearts of Emmy winners, think of what she‘d be able to do to Forever‘s dwindling fan base.
THE SHOW: Scorpion
Elyes Gabel
Katharine McPhee
Eddie Kaye Thomas
Jadyn Wong
Ari Stidham
Robert Patrick
THE PROBLEM: Judging by the ratings, Scorpion doesn‘t need my help. The show is doing healthy
business among the procedural-addicted masses who help CBS stay flush, as well as with the 18-to-49year-olds who keep advertisers swingin‘ on the flippity-flop. It‘s been granted a full season order, and
renewal seems like a formality.
And yet. No fall show frustrates me more because, for as decent as Scorpion has been, it ought to be so
much better. The premise is kicky and fun: A ragtag group of socially inept geniuses aid the government
when the going gets tough. Former Idol Katharine McPhee is around to add humanity. Her silent, gifted
son (played by Riley B. Smith) is around to add heart. I want to love Scorpion the way I love the unfairly
forgotten caper flick Sneakers. But I don‘t. And the reason is the cast. Stilted and bland, Elyes Gabel is
no leader of men — not even the half-considered head cases he has following him. I say, let‘s take a cue
from the Scorpion playbook and think outside the box. And then let‘s blow up the entire box and start
CBS reassigns Maggie Q (from Stalker).
CBS receives John Gallagher Jr. (from The Newsroom, HBO) and Seaton Smith (from Mulaney, Fox).
AMC receives Elyes Gabel, Jadyn Wong, and Ari Stidham (to The Walking Dead).

Maggie Q
John Gallagher Jr.
Eddie Kaye Thomas
Seaton Smith
Katharine McPhee
Robert Patrick
THE RATIONALE: Leave the genius-ing to the writers. What Scorpion needs badly is personality and
chemistry. And I think, thanks to my tinkering, that it may finally have it. Maggie Q is the best thing
about CBS‘s hideous Stalker — yes, that‘s like praising the crudités on the Titanic, but still. She‘s a
fun, physical performer, and I actually enjoy watching her order people around in the few minutes
Stalker devotes each week to the living before it gets back to fetishizing the demented and the dead.5
With her chilly charisma, she‘d be perfect as the team‘s new engineer. Next to Q, I‘d throw in John
Gallagher Jr., a warm actor currently in aesthetic exile on The Newsroom. A colleague recently referred
to his character on that show as ―the saddest man in the universe.‖ Replacing Gabel as the real-life
founder of the Scorpion crew should cheer him up. And while comedian Smith isn‘t working as Motif on
Mulaney, there‘s something about him that suggests skills beyond punch lines. Why not slide him in as
the team‘s resident laptop-hammering hacker? Eddie Kaye Thomas, the best of the preexisting bunch,
is fine right where he is.
McPhee can also stay, of course, because she‘s a national treasure. And Robert Patrick isn‘t going
anywhere because he‘s a national monument. (I mean that quite literally. One more crag on that oaky
face of his and he can be legally classified as a Sequoioideae.)
THE SHOW: Halt and Catch Fire
haltandcatchfire_ep1Tina Rowden/AMC
Lee Pace
Scoot McNairy
Mackenzie Davis
Kerry Bishé
THE PROBLEM: Despite some ardent fans, AMC‘s Halt and Catch Fire limped into its second-season
renewal. The show took far too long to find its legs and, if we‘re being honest, I still feel like it may have
found the wrong pair. The most exciting parts of Halt‘s first year involved Cameron, Mackenzie Davis‘s
some-kind-of-wonderful hacker, and Kerry Bishé‘s Donna, a working wife and mother who happens to
be just as good a programmer as her troubled husband. If AMC wants Halt to do more than just run
code, it needs to invest in a major upgrade. Here‘s how to do it:
AMC receives Elliott Gould (from Mulaney, Fox), Joshua Jackson (from The Affair, Showtime), and Joel
David Moore (from Forever, ABC).
Showtime receives Scoot McNairy (to The Affair).
HBO receives Lee Pace (to Game of Thrones).
Mackenzie Davis
Kerry Bishé
Joshua Jackson
Joel David Moore

Elliott Gould
THE RATIONALE: We‘ve had plenty of prestige-chasing cable dramas about difficult men attempting
impossible things. Isn‘t it time to reboot one of these old boxes from the female perspective? Pessimists
might look at this trade as AMC losing both of its gifted stars. I see it as a chance for the network to
promote real talent and put them in an incredible position to succeed. A show about Davis and Bishé
attempting to shake up the staid world of American computing in 1980s Texas would be fascinating and
— this is huge for spinoff-crazy AMC — totally original. Joshua Jackson could step easily into a Lee
Pace–like role (cocky charlatan more interested in bank than bytes), and Joel David Moore certainly fits
right in as some sort of gawky computing savant. Throw in Elliott Gould as a millionaire who could
either fund their dreams or crush them — it‘s about time he started playing cool again; enough with the
constant kvetching — and you‘ve got the hardware for a series that could win the next generation of
great dramas, not settle for fourth place in this one.
THE SHOW: Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones
THE PROBLEM: None, now that Bran‘s birdbrained vision quest is sidelined for an entire season.
HBO receives Lee Pace (from Halt and Catch Fire, AMC) and Karen Gillan (expiring contract from Selfie,
THE RATIONALE: HBO didn‘t need to get involved in the Trade Machine this fall, and yet it smartly
parlayed two expiring contracts (Emily Mortimer and John Gallagher Jr. from The Newsroom) into two
Marvel movie stars on the rise. Though I haven‘t read the books, I have no doubt that there‘s some sort
of cocky, sword-twirling knight debuting soon that Pace could play in his sleep. As for the spunky
Gillan … well, would anyone really mind if she were to make a surprise appearance as Ygritte‘s long-lost
arrow-shooting cousin, Ygrotte? Jon Snow must have learned a few things during the long offseason,
and I‘m sure she‘d be happy to give him a chance to try them out. See? Everyone‘s happy. This is how
HBO stays atop the Iron Throne. And how the Picasso of the TV Trade Machine paints his masterpiece.
Music Critics See Their Role and Influence Waning in The Era of Digital Music
music concert
Credit: Shutterstock/KR MEDIA Productions
Dan Singer
November 13, 2014

Nate Patrin‘s career trajectory in music journalism was once the norm.
Patrin grew up reading Spin and Rolling Stone in the 1990s and wrote music reviews for his high school
newspaper. He began contributing to the Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages in 1999, and from there he
moved up to the big leagues, freelancing for Spin and Blender.
―It was the traditional path,‖ Patrin said.
Nate Patrin
Nate Patrin
Between then and now, Blender folded in 2009 and Rolling Stone physically shrank its print magazine.
In September, Spin Media ended the print edition of Vibe, and Spin, which became an online-only
publication in 2012, had its fourth editor-in-chief in two years, Craig Marks, step down.

As the entire media industry has struggled to adapt to demands of the digital age and turn a profit,
music publications in particular are facing a slew of unique challenges that have redefined their roles
and responsibilities.
Patrin, who currently freelances for Pitchfork and several other outlets, is one of many writers who were
drawn to music journalism‘s authoritative voices and engaging stories, only to find themselves riding
out the profession‘s growing pains as it reshapes for the future.
―It can get discouraging, feeling like options for diehard music enthusiasts could be narrowing,‖ Patrin
Reviews and Page Views
One of the biggest shifts in digital-era music journalism is the changing role of the music critic.
Chris Weingarten
Chris Weingarten
―I feel like professional music criticism is almost a thing of the past,‖ said Rolling Stone contributing
editor Chris Weingarten, who has been vocal about the topic in recent years and calls himself the ―Last
Rock Critic Standing‖ in his Twitter bio. He noted that there are ―limitless‖ opportunities to write about
music online for free or next-to-nothing, but professional critics are losing the relevancy they once had.
―A critic‘s voice is now someone who‘s trying to speak articulately in the midst of noise,‖ Weingarten
Album leaks and streaming services like Spotify have democratized the public‘s access to music,
Weingarten said, and this diminishes the immediacy and impact of reviews written by professionals.
―By the time any of those reviews hit, you‘ve heard it. You‘ve made up your mind,‖ Weingarten said.
―The whole idea of sitting down and reading eight grafs about it after all that? It‘s almost like, ‗Yeah, I‘ve
moved on.‘‖
This traditional ―consumer guide‖ approach to music journalism, as Poynter media reporter and former
Spin critic Andrew Beaujon puts it, has given way to a more esoteric style of criticism that conveys
―what it‘s like to experience certain kinds of music.‖
―I really enjoy that kind of writing,‖ Beaujon said, ―but there just aren‘t that many publications willing
to pay for it.‖
In addition to criticism, music news has been changed by the social web. Similar to other forms of niche
journalism, the music news cycle has rapidly accelerated, and coverage is now driven by click-based
metrics that determine a music publication‘s value to advertisers, according to Weingarten and fellow
music critic Maura Johnston.
Johnston, who has written about music for Rolling Stone, The Village Voice and other publications,
believes that the pressure to increase web traffic causes major music publications to churn out
sensationalist outrage pieces and ―celebrity coverage‖ of popular artists, a development she compared to
―when your bagel shop starts selling frozen yogurt.‖
―With diminished resources, what happens is the stuff that‘s known to make money gets all of the
resources and the time,‖ Johnston said.
Johnston said she personally struggles with this trend in content creation because her interest in
writing about new, unhyped artists is less profitable for publications compared to pieces covering
mainstays who are ―guaranteed clicks.‖

When Johnston wrote for The Village Voice and the pop music website Idolator, ―the things that were
like ‗Hey, this is a cool band…‘ would never get as much traffic as a list of something or [a piece]
pointing out something is bad,‖ she said.
Johnston also attributes this shift in coverage to the way readers use social media to curate content
from a number of different sources, making it harder for music publications to target a consistent
audience they can sell to advertisers. Safe, predictable topics receive more attention as a result of this
uncertainty, she said.
Weingarten doesn‘t think most music writers are passionate about doing sensationalist music news
coverage, but he acknowledges that, at least for the time being, it is necessary in order for music
publications to survive in a click-based economy.
If music publications eventually find a new way to quantify their worth that doesn‘t involve click-based
metrics, he said, ―then you could start seeing sensationalist coverage go away.‖
Pitchfork: Music Journalism‘s New Tastemaker
One of the most successful music publications of the digital era is Pitchfork Media, a Chicago-based
online magazine.
Amy Phillips, news editor of Pitchfork
Amy Phillips, news editor of Pitchfork (By Jacob Murphy.)
Pitchfork Media, commonly referred to as Pitchfork, was launched in 1995 by Ryan Schreiber, who was
a 19-year-old record store employee at the time. The publication initially gained a following for its
vigorous coverage of indie music, but as it has matured it has become a one-stop shop for coverage of
both up-and-coming artists and well-known indie and pop veterans. Pitchfork has expanded its brand
considerably over the past decade by curating its own music festivals, launching the print quarterly,
The Pitchfork Review, creating a film site called The Dissolve and licensing video content.
Matt Frampton, Pitchfork Media‘s vice president of sales, said that despite being ―born online,‖ Pitchfork
has found success using a fairly traditional publishing model.
―Our goal is [to] make really great content that people want to read,‖ Frampton said. ―When people want
to read great content, that means you have a really interesting audience that advertisers want to reach.‖
Pitchfork‘s primary source of revenue is advertising, and its expected revenue growth is ―very healthy,‖
Frampton said, ranging from 25-to-40 percent each year. Frampton said Pitchfork‘s website receives
about 6.2 million unique visitors and 40 million page views each month.
According to comScore, a web analytics firm, Pitchfork received 2.47 million unique visitors in August,
outperforming Spin and Vibe but falling short of Rolling Stone‘s 11 million unique visitors.
Pitchfork news editor Amy Phillips credits Pitchfork‘s ―strong opinions‖ and constant stream of news
coverage with helping the publication build such a prominent and dedicated following.
Phillips said Pitchfork doesn‘t target users with short attention spans, instead publishing lengthy
reviews, features and documentaries. Aside from its rapid-fire news coverage, she said, the site is
―definitely for people who want to sit and take a deep dive in things.‖
A freelancer for Pitchfork since 2007, Patrin said the publication‘s album review schedule — typically
25 reviews are published each week — provides him with opportunities to consistently receive
assignments and cover more eclectic releases that might have ―fallen through the cracks‖ at a print

Pitchfork, he said, has become ―what publications like the Village Voice used to be in terms of letting
writers go deep without feeling pressured to talk down to readers.‖
Wondering Sound: Keeping Longform Alive
While the social web has, in many ways, turned the notion of professional music journalism on its
head, the industry is not without its optimists during this transitional period.
J. Edward Keyes
J. Edward Keyes
One of them is J. Edward Keyes, editor-in-chief of the digital music store eMusic, as well as the
recently-launched music website Wondering Sound.
Wondering Sound, which spun off of eMusic‘s editorial wing, went live in March. Keyes said the site is
dedicated to publishing longform music writing that covers a variety of genres and topics.
Keyes said Wondering Sound‘s emergence is a reaction of sorts to the demise of consumer guide music
―I think the future for music writers is doing really considered pieces that engage with the work in a
long format,‖ Keyes said. ―The stuff that gets me most excited is when a writer goes 2,000 words on
something and really brings up interesting, provocative points about how the album fits into the
broader culture.‖
Keyes said he was able to publish high-quality content on the site from the start by calling upon a large
base of writers who had previously contributed editorial content to eMusic. Wondering Sound‘s website
lists over 200 freelance contributors, including Johnston and Patrin.
In addition, Keyes said Wondering Sound is open to publishing and nurturing talented young writers,
and it pays, too.
Wondering Sound will soon begin generating ad revenue, and Keyes hopes the website will become a
thriving outlet for thoughtful, enthusiastic music journalism.
―In-depth reporting and being a part of creating a public conversation is important, and I would hate to
think that there are going to be fewer outlets or opportunities for that,‖ Keyes said. ―That‘s part of our
mission — to keep those doors open and let people bring us ideas.‖
Making it in Music Journalism
Patrin recently ended a part-time job maintaining the concert calendar at City Pages, and he is now a
full-time freelancer.
With more than a decade of professional music journalism experience behind him, Patrin believes he
will be able to stay financially self-sufficient as a music and pop culture writer. Still, the challenges of
full-time freelancing are not lost on him.
―Cranking out assignments has to become your full-time job,‖ he said. ―Pitching every day, reaching out
to friends of friends of friends, and reaching outside my usual subject matter has become a must.‖
Patrin said he tries to keep traditional ―9-to-5‖ work hours as a freelancer, but he does his best to
remain flexible in order to accommodate editorial revisions and short-notice opportunities. Patrin
remains passionate about music writing after all these years, and he would rather spend nights and
weekends on the job than pursue any other line of work.

―It is the kind of thing you really have to be seriously comfortable with for it to work, but I‘ve been doing
this long enough that I‘m OK with working through pressure,‖ he said. ―Better too much work than too
Interstellar Isn't About Religion (and Also It Is Totally About Religion)
Christopher Nolan is the latest filmmaker to avail himself of the spiritual setting of space.
Megan Garber Nov 12 2014, 8:24 AM ET
Spoilers ahead.
The website WikiHow offers 11 pieces of advice on "How to Avoid Uncomfortable Conversations About
Religion." These include "resist the urge to argue," "state an assertive personal policy," and "redirect the
conversation." Which are useful tips—and also not too different from the actions you're supposed to
take should you, on the course of an otherwise pleasant hike, encounter a bear.
Avoid the religion talk. As a social commandment, it has become cliche for a good reason: When religion
is both plural and political, conversations about it can indeed become "uncomfortable." And the
discomfort can translate not just to the conversation, one of the smallest mediums we have, but also to
one of the most massive: the Hollywood film. With a few exceptions, among them Darren Aronofsky's
Noah and Ridley Scott's upcoming Exodus: Gods and Kings, major studios have avoided religion as a
topic for its big-budget films. After a period of brief investment in them, the Wall Street Journal noted of
Christian-themed genre movies, the industry's enthusiasm has "faded."
That makes commercial sense: The movies that have the best chance of succeeding at the box office, if
not among critics, are the ones that appeal to the widest possible audiences. A film that expressly deals
with a religion, be it Christianity or any other, is rare for the same basic reason that WikiHow offers 11
different ways to extricate yourself from Godtalk: It can be divisive.
The problem is, though, that religion offers rich terrain for cinematic exploration. It provides, on top of
everything else, the same themes that have inspired artistic creators for centuries: mythology, memory,
mysticism. So filmmakers have developed a canny way to talk about religion in movies without actually,
you know, talking about it—allowing themselves to explore the biggest of life's questions and ideas while
avoiding "Uncomfortable Conversations."
Their method involves a political safe space: space itself.
Related Story
Interstellar: A Preposterous Epic
Space epics, the ones that have ambition beyond classic action (Star Wars) and adventure
(Armageddon), concern themselves, almost by default, with metaphysics, questioning the how and the
why and the what ifs of the world and the space beyond it. There's Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey,
with its lauded ambiguities of spirituality and existentialism. There's Zemeckis' Contact, whose Palmer
Joss (played by one Matthew McConaughey) is essentially an allegory of religious faith in the face of
other approaches to the world. There's Shyamalan's Signs (with Mel Gibson in the role of the allegory).
There's Scott's Prometheus. There's the "metaphysical head trip" that is Cuarón's Gravity. These films
treat space not just as a spectacular setting for a story, but as a question to be answered. They deal
with religion not just as a human institution, but also as something broader and more universal: a
vehicle for human spirituality.
The latest to explore the spiritual implications of space is Hollywood's reigning philosopher-poet,
Christopher Nolan, and his reigning philosophy-film. While Interstellar, as one review put it, "never
entirely commits to the idea of a non-rational, uncanny world, it nevertheless has a mystical strain, one
that's unusually pronounced for a director whose storytelling has the right-brained sensibility of an

engineer, logician, or accountant." Or, as Slate summed it up: "For the first time, Nolan‘s universe has a
God, or something like one."
That something is the "they," the mysterious creatures who communicate with Earth-bound humans,
and who help to rescue humanity from a planet that has become, gradually and then suddenly,
inhospitable. (Put another way: Salvation requires humans to have faith in the power—and the
benevolence—of a being they can neither fully know nor fully understand.) "We used to look up at the
sky and wonder at our place in the stars," Matthew McConaughey's NASA-recruited pilot, Cooper,
laments early on in the movie. "Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt."
There's also a fallen angel in the person of Dr. Mann (yep, Dr. Mann).
Interstellar's plot hinges, both intermittently and overall, on self-sacrifice, on characters willingly
enduring death so that humanity as a whole might live. It hinges, even more explicitly, on the tentative
promise of Cooper's return to Earth—what you might also refer to as a second coming. It features a
chosen one (Cooper's daughter, Murph) and a chosen people: humanity as a species. There's a
ponderous shot of Cooper, about to pilot his space-colonists into a wormhole, with his eyes closed and
his hands folded in what is hard not to see as prayer. There is Hans Zimmer's booming soundtrack, the
most prominent instrument of which is the organ of London's Temple Church. If you wanted to be
Miltonian about it—Paradise Lost did take place in an interplanetary setting quite similar to
Interstellar's—there's also a fallen angel in the person of Dr. Mann (yep, Dr. Mann), the brilliant
scientist who, it is repeated several times, represented "the best of us" before he came to represent the
There's also a lot of talk of good and evil. There's a lot of talk of faith. There's a lot of talk of love—love
that is explicitly not romantic (Interstellar is as asexual a blockbuster as you'll find), but that is, in its
best manifestation, selfless.
None of which is to say that Interstellar is a Christian—or even a religious—film. It is not, and this is
the point. The "they" is not necessarily a metaphysical being; Zimmer's organ was chosen, he has said,
for "its significance to science." Good and evil, faith and love—these ideas, of course, extend far beyond
What it is to say, though, is that Interstellar, like so many space movies before it, has adopted the
themes of religious inquiry. The scope of space as a setting—the story that takes place within the
context of the universe itself, across dimensions—has allowed Nolan, like so many filmmakers before
him, the permission of implication. Nolan has said that one of his primary artistic influences is the
postmodern author Jorge Luis Borges; you can, indeed, read Interstellar, in the most generous
interpretation, as you would any complex piece of literature. As Stanley Kubrick once said of the film
that is the most obvious antecedent to Nolan's:
You're free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film—and
such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level—but I
don't want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue or else
fear he's missed the point.
Nolan is often accused of coldness when it comes to his characters; you could also argue that the
fleshed-out personality is almost beside the point when your purpose is not just storytelling, but
allegory. Nolan has, in his films before Interstellar, been best known for characters who struggle in
introspective ways: with themselves, with partners, with the past and the future. They treat existence,
and consciousness, as matters of internal opportunity and anxiety.
With Interstellar, however, Nolan has taken that microcosmic perspective and widened it to the
dimension of the cosmic. The typically Nolanian questions—what does it mean to be
conscious/responsible/loving/human?—here take on the heft of the human species as a whole.
Interstellar is concerned less with "man versus nature" than it is with "man versus human nature."
While the film has a marked admiration for science—it is science, in the end, that helps humanity to

rescue itself—it has just as much respect for wonder and awe and what you might call, in the broadest
and perhaps even the narrowest sense, faith. Its villains are the characters who trust too much in logic,
without the ballast of something more transcendent. They are the ones who choose physical survival
over everything else—who prioritize living, you could say, over life.
"It has been said," Carl Sagan wrote in Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, "that
astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration
of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world." We are saturated, now, with
images of space—not just from Hollywood, but from scientists. NASA offers an astronomy picture of the
day. There are multiple websites dedicated to the sharing of "space porn." The images appeal not just
because they are pretty, but because they are, in the most literal sense, awesome. They encourage us to
think beyond ourselves, to question, to wonder. Sagan wasn't just an astronomer, but a philosopherastronomer. Just as Christopher Nolan—and Stanley Kubrick, and Alfonso Cuarón—are philosopherfilmmakers. Space, speaking to us in its vast silence, brings out the philosopher in us all.
The Blu-ray Box Set of the Year: "The Complete Jacques Tati"
by Peter Sobczynski
November 5, 2014 | 1
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Although his cinematic career would extend from the mid-'30s to the mid-'70s, the filmography of the
late French comic filmmaker Jacques Tati (1908-1982) consists of only six feature films, along with a
handful of short subjects on which he served as a director, writer and/or actor. If one goes strictly by
the numbers, this is not much—Steven Soderbergh has cranked out as many titles just in the space of
a couple of years—and in the grand scheme of things, there is perhaps a tendency to marginalize his
contributions to the the world of cinema. Sure, he had a couple of huge international critical and
commercial successes—one of them even went on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film—but
he followed those up with a wildly expensive and elaborate film that failed so completely that, having
financed it himself, he lost his home and the rights to his films and found it increasingly difficult to get
his subsequent efforts produced and distributed properly.
And yet, art is not strictly about the numbers (or at least it shouldn't be), and if one looks beyond them
in Tati's case, one discovers that despite the paucity of his output, his films contain a virtual
embarrassment of riches. Combing the crack comic timing and predilection for physical humor over
verbal that he developed in his early days as a mime comedian working in the music halls and cabarets
of Paris, an eye for staging comedic set-pieces in a manner that was both hilarious and formally
exquisite and a production approach that allowed his work to convey a quirky, hand-made feel that
caused them to stand out, not just from the other screen comedies of their time but of all films in
general. (His approach was so singular that he would not only think up and film a new joke for a movie
that he filmed and released 20 years earlier, he would do it so deftly that the new footage would feel as
if it had been there all along.) These are qualities that are essentially timeless and as a result, while
other comedies made during Tati's era can now seem labored and stilted, his are as fresh, dazzling and
hilarious today as they were when they were first released, perhaps even more so.
While it was once difficult to see Tati's films in anything close to the manner in which they deserved to
be presented, recent years have seen a number of restorations and rereleases that have culminated in
the lovely Criterion box set "The Complete Jacques Tati," a new seven-disc Blu-ray collection that offers
viewers exactly what the title promises. The set contains the six feature films—"Jour de Fete" (1949),
"Monsieur Hulot's Holiday" (1953), "Mon Oncle" (1959), "Playtime" (1967), "Trafic" (1971) and "Parade"
(1974)—in both their original release versions and, in the case of the first three films, additional variant
cuts that he prepared over the years as well as a separate disc containing three shorts that he wrote
and appeared in ("On Demande une Brute" [1934], "Gai Dimanche" [1935] and "Soigne ton Gauche"
[1936]), two that he directed ("L'Ecole des Facteurs" [1946] and "Cours du Soir" [1967]) and two made
by Tati's daughter, Sophie Tatischeff (the award-winning "Degustation Maison" [1977] and "Forza
Bastia" [1978], a soccer documentary that was actually begun by Tati and completed by Tatischeff after
his passing). Each disc in the set also contains a number of interviews—both current ones conducted

with cinema experts and archival selections featuring Tati himself—documentaries, visual essays, an
introduction to "Playtime" by Monty Python member Terry Jones, trailers and the proverbial much
much more. Rarely does the complete output of a filmmaker of Tati's stature get the sort of all-in-one
treatment that has been afforded here, and the end result has been presented with such care and grace
that the entire set is a must-see for everyone from the most ardent of cineastes to little kids who revel in
the glories of silly slapstick regardless of its country of origin.
The only problem with writing about Tati and his style of filmmaking is that what makes his work so
distinctive—his beautiful visual style, crack comic timing and a cheerfully democratic narrative
approach in which anyone can take center stage at any time—can be difficult to describe. Take his first
feature, "Jour de Fete," for example. The premise sounds simple enough at first blush—a traveling fair
comes to a small village and after a visit, the local postman (Tati, playing a character he first introduced
in the short "L'Ecole des Facteurs"), inspired in equal parts by a film promoting the efficiency of the
Parisian postal service and the wine consumed during the day, attempts to apply the Parisian approach
to his delivery duties with chaotic results—and if I wanted to, I could discuss the central theme of
man's increasingly absurd over-reliance on technological advances. However, to do so would utterly fail
to convey the charm, beauty and hilarity on display throughout, as Tati mines his deceptively simple
premise for comedic gold. Although it may seem slightly out of step with Tati's later films because of his
greater emphasis than usual on dialogue to move the story along, there are still any number of glorious
bits to be found here—I especially like the opening gag involving the postman on his bike struggling to
avoid a pursuing wasp—and if it weren't for the circumstances surrounding its production that caused
it to be unavailable in its proper form for so long, I am sure that it would be generally regarded as a
comic masterpiece.
With his next two features, "Monsieur Hulot's Holiday" and "Mon Oncle," Tati would introduce his most
lasting and beloved creation—the endearingly goofy and slightly out-of-step Monsieur Hulot—and create
an international sensation in the process. He is essentially a slightly clumsy everyman who serenely
goes from situation to situation without ever quite recognizing the chaos that he inadvertently initiates
along the way. "Monsieur Hulot's Holiday," in which Hulot tries to enjoy a brief vacation at a seaside
resort in Normandy, hardly seems to have any plot at all. Nevertheless, it takes a premise to which most
viewers can easily relate and develops an amazing array of inspired gags that are sweet and silly and yet
maintain some bite and are almost purely visual in execution. As for Hulot, Tati could have easily
transformed him into a typically clueless bourgeois clod for comedic purpose, but instead depicts him
and his antics with genuine affection, a feeling clearly shared by audiences, who made the film into a
worldwide hit.
By comparison, "Mon Oncle" is a slightly more straightforward comedy in the sense that it has a slight
whisper of what might be described as a plot: Hulot goes off to stay with his sister and her family in
their gruesomely ultramodern home, gets a job in a plastic hose factory that is only slightly more
mechanized in nature and winds up wreaking havoc on both, much to the delight of his young nephew.
By introducing the relentlessly clumsy and irrevocably human Hulot into this soulless and plasticized
milieu, Tati is clearly making points about the increasingly sterile nature of contemporary life. While
that may not sound like the most radical premise upon which to hang a movie, it certainly was at the
time in which it was made, a period in which everything new was automatically determined to be better
than what had proceeded it. Once again, Tati managed to come up with a number of great gags and setpieces, many of which involved that most omnipresent of mechanical marvels, the automobile—in one,
a ghastly-looking new car that has just been looked upon as some rare exhibit pulls out into the street
where it joins any number of similar vehicles and an exquisite version of the classic bit involving a big
car trying to squeeze into a parking space that is far too small for it. While it may lack the completely
free-form nature of Tati's previous Hulot film, it is perhaps still a more satisfying work when all is said
and done. Again, the film was a massive worldwide hit, and would earn Tati the Best Foreign Language
Film Oscar.
About the only person not particularly enthralled with the success of the Hulot character was Tati
himself. While he knew that including him in his next project was pretty much a necessity, that did not
necessarily mean that the film in question had to revolve solely around him. Instead, he determined

that, as he would tell critic Penelope Gilliat in an interview a decade later, "The film is about everybody."
That film would be "Playtime," and it would prove to be not only his masterpiece but one of the most
astonishing comedic creations ever put on the big screen. The plot is virtually nonexistent; over the
course of roughly 24 hours, a diverse group of people—businessmen, nuns, stewardesses, American
tourists, Hulot and a number of people vaguely resembling Hulot—negotiate a gleamingly soulless
cityscape festooned with glass, steel and highly organized corridors that is meant to represent modernday Paris, but which is so impersonal that it could be any major metropolis. (Save for a brief glimpse of
the exterior of Orly Airport at the beginning, the only recognizably Parisian items on display, such as
the Eiffel Tower, are seen only as reflections in the glass and steel.) Hulot tries unsuccessfully to meet
up with another businessman, only to be swept away by a crowd heading to a trade show offering up
any number of oddball gadgets for him to fumble with. He also catches a glimpse of the prettiest of the
American tourists but is perennially stymied in his attempts to connect with her as well. In a nearly
hour-long sequence that dominates the second half, all of the characters (and many more) converge
upon the opening night of a restaurant/nightclub called the Royal Garden and party on into the night
even as the barely completed structure essentially collapses around them amidst the frenzy of activity.
To bring all this to life and to properly control the chaos, Tati went to the outskirts of Paris and literally
built his own city—a massive set consisting of real buildings (some with moveable walls and some built
on rails) and real streets that took five months to build out of 11,700 square feet of glass, 486,000
square feet of concrete and 31,500 square feet of lumber, equipped with real water pipes, electrical
cables and heating devices. All of this cost upwards of $800,000 in 1967 money, and was financed by
Tati personally by putting up both his home and production company as collateral. To add to the
spectacle, Tati filmed the entire thing in the super-sized 70mm film process that would allow him to
better capture both the size and scope of what he was going for and to better represent his comment
about the film being about everybody. Virtually every corner of his jumbo-sized frame is teeming with
incident. By democratically refusing to focus on any one aspect, he creates a fascinating work that can
literally change from viewing to viewing depending on what part of the frame one chooses to focus upon
at any given time. Although glorious throughout, the film moves to the truly sublime once it hits the
Royal Garden and Tati unleashes one of the greatest sustained set-pieces in film history, a riot of sound
and vision that somehow gets funnier as it goes on, especially as everything literally begins to fall apart.
(In the most inspired bit, an "invisible" glass door is shattered but the doorman continues to do his job
by miming his duties.)
Unfortunately, having literally sunk everything (about $3,000,000) into his pet project, Tati would find
himself facing a series of calamities to rival those of Hulot himself. He determined that the film should
only be screened in 70mm in order to properly convey his vision—a nice thought but there were too few
theaters in Paris equipped to project it in this manner. Eventually, he would authorize a 35mm
presentation for release but it opened in Paris in May of 1968, not the best time for one to open a film
there. After that inauspicious start, there was relatively little interest in showing it in other countries—it
would not premiere in the U.S. until 1972—and when it was, it was hardly ever seen in 70mm. Tati
would lose his house and his films, and it would only be in 1977 that he would finally regain the rights
to the latter. In the years since it debuted, it was regarded by many as a folly of massive proportions,
but a couple of decades later, the film would finally be restored and presented in its intended form and
audiences around the world were stunned to discover that Tati's exploration of the confusion caused by
a society increasingly defined by technology was not only a grandly hilarious comedy but was perhaps
even more relevant in current times than it was back when it was first made. (And if you ever get a
chance to see the film in 70mm, take it no matter the amount of time or money involved—I have seen it
in that format three times in my life and count them as among my most treasured moviegoing
Because of the failure of "Playtime," Tati's last two films were largely overlooked when they came out
and still have not quite received their due even from critics who should know better. "Trafic" finds him
goofing on man's dependence on the automobile, an invention that would inspire any number of jokes
throughout his career by following Hulot, now the chief designer of an auto manufacturer, as he
navigates his company's latest creation, a ridiculously outfitted "camping car" (imagine a goofier version
of the car that Homer Simpson designed for half-brother Herb), from Paris to an auto show in

Amsterdam and encountering any number of mishaps along the way. Sort of a kinder, gentler version of
Jean-Luc Godard's "Weekend," the film may lack the epic scope of its predecessor but more than makes
up for it with an astonishing variety of sight gags and mishaps that concludes on a surprisingly somber
note when Hulot, whose car has cheered virtually all those who encounter it, fails to get it to the show
on time and is fired. Indeed, that would carry over into real life as well as "Trafic" would prove to be
Hulot's last hurrah, though one wonders what might have happened if Tati had gotten his way; he had
actually planned a final film entitled "Confusion" that would have included the character's on-screen
Instead, Tati would conclude his filmmaking career with "Parade," a low-budget effort, produced cheaply
on video for Swedish television, that would find him going full circle by returning to the sort of stage
silliness and pantomimes with which he began his performing career. On the surface, the film appears
to be little more than a collection of acts—mimes, singers, jugglers, acrobats and the like (with Tati
himself, naturally, as the ringmaster)—performing before a group of spectators in a theater. As it
progresses and the line between performer and spectator begins to blur in increasingly fascinating and
entertaining ways, and the antics in the stands begin to rival those on the stage. Although the least of
Tati's features, both in reputation (it would receive only the scantest of theatrical distribution and that
would only come years after it was produced) and in quality, "Parade" still has enough going for it to
warrant rediscovery—Tati's restaging some of the pantomimes of his early days is undeniably
interesting without getting buried in schmaltz or nostalgia, and there are still a number of funny gags
on display, including several involving motorcycle helmets, of all things.
Best of all is the beautiful epilogue in which a young boy and girl, whom we have glimpsed here and
there throughout the film, take to the stage themselves and attempt to recreate the acts that they have
just seen with some props that have been left on the stage. There is nothing especially elaborate to this
sequence, but the delicate manner in which Tati captures the magic of little kids trying to capture the
magic they have just experienced is funny, charming and heartfelt. It serves as the ideal final note to
one of the great filmographies, one that, thanks to "The Complete Jacques Tati" set, can at last be
properly seen, evaluated and, most of all, enjoyed by audiences both young and old.
District Mined: The Gerrymandering of Contemporary Cinema
Noah Gittell
November 11, 2014
While concerned citizens and political journalists agonized over the fate of the Senate in the weeks
leading up to the mid-term elections, there was a good reason no one was talking about the fate of the
House: Due to the gerrymandering of Congressional districts, it would have been virtually impossible for
Republicans to lose their majority, despite Congress hovering at record-low approval ratings. While once
intended to reflect shifting populations, gerrymandering has become a political tool used to ensure
politicians get re-elected. Purple districts are turned into strongly red or blue ones, and, as a result, the
politicians who represent these heavily partisan districts are given no incentive to work with the
opposition. Although there are certainly other factors, most political analysts cite gerrymandering as
the primary cause of Congressional gridlock, creating an era in which America is more divided than at
any time since the Civil War.
The political divisions reflected and affected by Congressional gerrymandering run so deep that they
have started to creep into other areas of our culture. Based on your geographical location, I could
probably guess your political affiliation, your income level, your diet, and where you get your news.
It was only a matter of time before Hollywood started to catch on.
Because movies cost many millions to produce, studios have historically designed their product to
appeal to the widest possible audience. But that‘s becoming increasingly hard to do, as Americans have
disparate ideas of who they are and what they want. Is Benedict Cumberbatch or Dwayne Johnson your
idea of an ideal man? Do you prefer your monsters to be reptilian (Godzilla) or human (Gone Girl)?
When it comes to big-budget tentpole flicks, Hollywood still has to aim big, but for the increasingly large

crop of mid-range movies, the studios are starting to realize that appealing to everyone is a fool‘s
errand. They just need to target their movies to the right gerrymandered district.
The micro-targeting of minority communities, for example, has already begun. Last month, a movie
called Addicted made $7.6 million on its opening weekend. If you haven‘t heard of it, you are probably a
white male. The film, an erotic drama about a woman having an affair, opened on only 846 screens, but
it was micro-targeted to African-American women through social media, and the results spoke loudly:
The audience on opening weekend was 72% African-American and 82% female. This campaign was
orchestrated by Lionsgate, who pulled off the same trick with Latino voters in 2013: Instructions Not
Included, a Mexican dramedy, shocked box-office pundits by grossing over $44 million domestically in
only 717 theaters.
But it seems like this process is also occurring on a larger scale. Even in just the last few years, midrange budgeted movies targeted to specific demographics are more prevalent, and they are making more
money. In 2012, only three of the top 30 movies of the year were made for less than $40 million. In
2013, it was 5. This year so far, 8 of 30 were made for under $40 million, and that‘s before the Oscars
inflate the grosses of a few heavily-nominated smaller movies. Already, Neighbors (frat boys), Ride Along
(African-Americans), The Fault in Our Stars (teenage girls), and Heaven is for Real (Christians) have
succeeded without ever becoming breakout hits. A great example is Tammy, the Melissa McCarthy
vehicle that was considered a flop upon its initial release before it ended up grossing over $80 million
on its $20 million budget. How did it accomplish this? Targeted demographics. As Scott Mendelson
noted in Forbes, Tammy ―is not just a female-centric comedy but basically a ‗No boys allowed‘ picture
overflowing with female characters played by a murderer‘s row of female talent (Kathy Bates, Sandra
Oh, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, etc.).‖ Tammy aimed hard for the female demographic and attracted
enough of them to turn a significant profit, even if it never became that cross-over hit that many
expected it would become.
We can also see these divisions in the recent trend of films with similar subject matter but wildly
different political perspectives. Last year, Hollywood gave us White House Down and Olympus Has
Fallen, which had nearly identical plots: There is a terrorist attack on the White House, and only a lone
Secret Service member can save the day. But the political values at play could not have been more
different. ―Down‖ identified the military-industrial complex as the real evil in Washington, while
―Olympus‖ blamed everything on the North Koreans, rousing its viewers into a patriotic fervor with a
simplistic Cold War-style moral canvas: Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. Another way of looking at it? White
House Down was for liberal Democrats, while Olympus Has Fallen was for Reagan-era Republicans.
The same scenario is playing out this fall with World War II films. Fury, which topped the box office in
its opening weekend, is an old-fashioned celebration of American military that plays to today‘s more
hawkish members of society, while The Imitation Game subverts the typical American WWII narrative
by positing that British academics were the real war heroes. Fury uses graphic violence to bludgeon its
viewers into submission; The Imitation Game barely sniffs the battlefield and seems to absorb the
values of its protagonist, who claims to be ―agnostic about violence.‖ These are clearly films for different
Despite this cinematic gerrymandering, some films do manage to transcend cultural and political
boundaries. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Lego Movie, and The Hunger Games franchise,
for example, deal explicitly in political themes but their critiques are broad enough to avoid offense. But
those galvanizing films used to be far more common. If you were to poll Americans in 1977 and ask
them their favorite movie of the year, Star Wars would have been a near unanimous answer. It topped
the box-office and even won over the elites, earning a nod for Best Picture. What answers would you get
this year? In some communities, the answer might be Heaven is for Real or Son of God, while others
would cite Snowpiercer and Boyhood. African-Americans might bring up the successful About Last
Night, while young hipsters (and most movie critics) would certainly find a way to work in mention of
The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Perhaps we should celebrate that. Film has always been a populist medium, and it can‘t help but reflect
our divisive national character back to us. That‘s how pop culture works. But this gerrymandering,
which has produced such problems in our political process, could be an exciting development for
moviegoers. We may long for the days when an ―event picture‖ could remind us of the unifying power of
cinema, but this new gerrymandered system turns all of us into advocates, and when we champion a
movie, we are speaking not just on behalf of our likes or dislikes, but on behalf of the very values that
define us. If anything, we become more invested in the movies we love, and that can only be a good
The Eternal Chump: Everything‘s Coming Up Milhouse
Mallory Ortberg on November 12, 2014 in Television 55 Comments
Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 8.53.23 PM Previously in this series: Edna Krabappel.
The world owes a great deal to minor Simpsons characters, and I have taken it upon myself to
periodically-yet-irregularly celebrate them as the spirit moves me. Today we honor Milhouse Van
Milhouse Van Houten is the chump to end all chumps. His father was a chump. He comes from a long
line of chumps. He was born a chump, and he‘ll die a chump. He knows his place on the social
hierarchy — higher than Martin, lower than Nelson — as he explains to Bart, ―We still get beat up, but
at least we get an explanation.‖
Unfortunately for Milhouse, the explanation is usually ―you‘re Milhouse.‖ A scene from Brother From
The Same Planet illustrates Milhouse‘s place in the classroom perfectly:
[Bart's class is having Show and Tell]
Bart: Someday, I want to be an F-14 pilot like my hero, Tom. He lent me this new weapon called a
neural disrupter.
[Bart demonstrates the sheer power of the neural disrupter by shooting it at Martin's forehead]
Martin: Hey…
[falls down on the ground, twitching]
Mrs. Krabappel: He‘s not dead, is he Bart?
Bart: Nah, but I wouldn‘t give him any homework for a while.
Mrs. Krabappel: Very good, Bart. Thank you.
Bart: Oh, don‘t thank me. Thank an unprecedented eight-year military build-up.
Mrs. Krabappel: Mmm. Milhouse, you‘re next.
Milhouse: Uh, I have a horsey.
[mimics his toy horse neighing before trailing off]
Nelson: Wuss!
Milhouse is perhaps best described by what is not: he‘s not unlucky enough to be Martin, he doesn‘t get
shot in the face with a neural disruptor. But he‘ll never be friends with an F-14 pilot, and he‘s exactly
the kind of loser who would follow an act like that with something as childish and boring as a toy horse.
And he‘d call it a ―horsey‖ instead of a horse, which is exactly the wrong thing to say in the fourth
grade. It‘s something only a wuss would say.
Milhouse is the kind of kid who has a good idea once every couple of years (coming up with the
character name Thrillhouse when he‘s playing Bonestorm), but somehow still manages to ruin it for
Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 8.56.45 PM

There is a well-known scene on Parks and Recreation where Ron Swanson describes his coworker Jerry
thusly: ―A schlemiel is the guy who spills soup at a fancy party. A schlamazel is the guy he spills it on.
Jerry is both the schlemiel and the schlamazel.‖
Milhouse, too, is both the schlemiel and the schlamazel. Even his best friend‘s dad refers to him as
―that little weiner kid.‖ He was born to play second banana. His dad works at a cracker factory and
sleeps in a racecar bed and gets conned by women who use lines like ―Can I have the keys to the car,
lover? I feel like changing wigs.‖ He‘s not quite smart enough to figure things out when someone‘s
pulling one over him, but he knows when he‘s been wronged. In The Canine Mutiny, Milhouse comes
impressively close to calling Bart out for gaslighting him:
―Remember when your dog ate my goldfish, and then you lied to me and said I never had any goldfish.
But why did I have the bowl Bart? Why did I have the bowl?‖
Even a chump knows if you have a bowl, you‘re supposed to put goldfish in it. Even a chump will
eventually figure it out, if he‘s been cheated.
Milhouse: Bart, I don‘t want you to see me cry.
Bart: Aw, come on, I‘ve seen you cry a million times. You cry when you scrape your knee, you cry when
we‘re out of chocolate milk, you cry when you‘re doing long division and you have a remainder left over.
Milhouse: Well, I didn‘t want you to see me cry this time.
Everything bad that can happen to Bart, happens to Milhouse — but it‘s always just a little bit worse.
In Boy Scoutz ‗N The Hood, Bart accidentally joins the Junior Campers on a Squishee Bender; Milhouse
gets a curse word shaved into the back of his head and is dragged off by Principal Skinner, who
threatens to shave him as a reminder that ―hair is not a right, it‘s a privilege.‖ In ―Home Sweet
Homediddly-Dum-Doodily,‖ Bart and Milhouse both spend the afternoon playing with the same monkey
and Bart gets lice (―No fair! Why didn‘t anything bad happen to Milhouse?‖); Milhouse is last seen
shivering and green, muttering ―So cold…so very cold‖ to himself.
He‘s the second banana wherever Bart goes, which is perhaps why in every other town, there‘s a
Milhouse waiting for him. In ―You Only Move Twice,‖ a blue-haired kid with glasses runs up to Bart and
asks if he has a best friend yet, in a tone that can only be described as ―lickspittle-esque.‖
Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 8.28.20 AM
In ―Lemon of Troy,‖ Milhouse encounters his own Shelbyvilleian doppelganger, and they embrace over
the pain of having the same first name.
―Is this the untimely end of Milhouse?‖
―But Milhouse is my name!‖
―But I thought I was the only one!‖
―A pain I know all too well.‖
Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 8.03.11 AM
It‘s a nice moment of recognition for him, but it‘s also a reminder that there is nothing unique about
Milhouse. There‘s a Milhouse in every town.
At one point, Bart gets Milhouse placed on the FBI‘s Most Wanted list, and a cutaway scene shows
Milhouse running from a terrifying federal agent in a scene lifted straight from The Fugitive. ―I‘m
innocent,‖ Milhouse says.

―I don‘t care,‖ the agent says, and Milhouse jumps off the edge of the dam. As he reaches the bottom,
we hear a faint cry drift up from the falls:
―My glasses!‖
Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 8.42.57 AM
He may be a chump, but he‘s still just a kid.
Mr. Largo: Miss Simpson, do you find something funny about the word ―tromboner‖?
Lisa: No, sir. I was laughing at something outside.
Sherri: She was looking at Nelson!
Class: Lisa likes Nelson!
Milhouse: She does not!
Class: Milhouse likes Lisa!
Janey: He does not!
Class: Janey likes Milhouse!
Uter: She does not!
Class: Uter likes Milhouse!
Mr. Largo: Nobody likes Milhouse! Lisa, you‘ve got detention!
One of Milhouse‘s most defining characteristics is his undying devotion for Lisa, who is at best politely
indifferent and at worst grossed out by his attentions. In ―Lisa‘s Date With Density,‖ she asks him to
take a note to her new crush Nelson, and Milhouse can‘t understand why she doesn‘t like him in the
same way.
―You‘re more like a big sister,‖ she tells him (how infinitely cruel! How true! The most painful jabs
always come from people who do not even realize they are insulting you.)
―Why does everyone keep saying that?‖ Milhouse groans, in an exquisitely painful detail. Most romantic
false leads at least hear ―you‘re like a brother to me.‖ Milhouse doesn‘t even get the dignity of keeping
his own gender.
Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 8.53.42 PM
Always his own worst enemy, Milhouse tells himself ―if she sees you‘ll do anything for her, she‘s bound
to respect you‖ (an argument only a ten-year-old could buy, and yet how many of us have fallen prey to
it in our lifetimes?) and carries the note. He tells Lisa in a bright, cheery voice, ―What are big sisters
for?‖ before realizing instantly what a mistake he‘s made.
But he still carries the note.
There‘s a blink-and-you‘ll-miss-it gag in ―Rosebud‖ where Mr. Burns starts a campaign to find his
missing childhood teddy bear, and a series of milk cartons asking if anyone has seen Milhouse — who
has presumably been kidnapped — are papered over with pictures of Bobo. (Nobody likes Milhouse.)
Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 9.12.22 PM
More than anyone else on the show, Milhouse represents the anxieties of a regular kid. Most kids are
lucky enough not to be Martin or Ralph. Most kids aren‘t angry enough to be Nelson or cool enough to
be Bart. But most kids have to wear glasses, and most kids worry about their parents getting divorced,
and most kids worry that even their teacher can tell nobody likes them, and most kids are afraid that if
they go missing, no one will notice.
Being Milhouse is the worst thing that is likely to happen to you.

Milhouse: Step over this line and say that. I‘ll kick your butt… at Nintendo.
It‘s Milhouse‘s eternal schlemiel status that make the little victories — which are few and far between
for him — so sweet. It takes ten seasons, but he finally gets a win when Springfield gets flooded in
―Mom and Pop Art.‖ He hates his flood pants — of course Milhouse has flood pants — but is delighted
when the waters rush into his room and stop mid-ankle.
―My feet are soaked,‖ he cries out in joy, ―but my cuffs are bone dry. Everything‘s coming up Milhouse!‖
He then high-steps his way out of the room, as perfectly and uncomplicatedly happy as he will ever be.
When nothing ever goes your way, sometimes dry cuffs are enough.
The Problem With 'The Problem With...'
Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire noviembre 12, 2014 at 1:10PM
When we nitpick culture, we miss what's good, and bad, about it.
Matthew McConaughey wants to hear all about your problems with "Interstellar." Really.
Matthew McConaughey wants to hear all about your problems with "Interstellar." Really.
Earlier this week, Deadspin's Drew Magary argued that "The Internet Has a 'Problem' Problem"
Now 90 percent of all internet thinkpieces are dedicated to explaining why you should have a problem
with something you originally had no problem with.... There's a whole black hole of the internet that
spends all day up its own ass, endlessly worried about approving of pop culture rather than actually
fucking enjoying it. This is shitty, pointless writing. You think something is racist or sexist? Say it's
racist or sexist. Don't hem and haw and say you something "bugs" you like it's some kind of yet-to-berevealed magical revelation. And if something does bug you, it better be a murder spree, or a mass
recall of Funyuns, or something that MATTERS.
And today, the Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg details "What ‗What X gets wrong about Y‘ pieces
get wrong about pop culture":
When observers go digging, they inevitably find something that went factually wrong. And if they were
fact-checking biography or history, these discoveries might be proof of shoddy research or a flawed
thesis such that the work ought to be rejected out of hand. But with fiction, diversions from fact are not
disqualifying. Instead, they invite further questions. Do writers know they have diverted from the facts?
If they do, why did they make those decisions? Are the changes matters of storytelling economy, or pure
dramatic bang for the buck? Or are the creators trying to say something significant about the world we
live in and the alternative they are imagining into being?
I've advocated before for the death of the "expert review," the process whereby a purported authority is
assigned to vet the accuracy of a work of fiction. But as Rosenberg argues, what matters is not how
fiction diverges from reality, but why: What reasons might the creators have for altering the facts or the
laws of physics, and, more importantly, what do those alterations produce? If you knew only the true
story behind the movie "Foxcatcher," you would be surprised to find out that Dave Schultz, widely
considered the best wrestler of his generation, and the central figure in the movie's real-life tragedy, is a
supporting player, but the decision to focus on the relationship between Dave's brother, Mark, and the
eccentric millionaire John du Pont is a deliberate creative choice, one that turns "Foxcatcher" from a
true-crime into a story of neglected men bound together by their shared feelings of abandonment. You
can certainly quarrel with that choice, which some think warps the story sufficiently that it should have
been wholly converted into fiction, but you have to acknowledge a choice was made, and if anything is
"wrong," it's the reasoning behind it.
"Reality" can be an elusive concept: Slate's Phil Plait attacked "Interstellar" at length for distorting its
physics, and then had to recant when it turned out he'd started with an incorrect assumption about the
nature of the movie's black hole. And a good deal of the "Interstellar" nitpicks have been carried out in

bad faith, accusing the movie of getting bogged down in exposition in one breath and criticizing it for
not explaining details in the next. But Neil deGrasse Tyson, who's become something of a freelance
movie fact-checker, was largely laudatory in his Twitter comments, acknowledging its concessions to
movie cliché — "On another planet, around another star, in another part of the galaxy, two guys get into
a fist fight" — while noting that the ideas behind it are solid, even if their application has been tweaked
for dramatic effect. Sure, in real life, you couldn't get close enough to a black hole to noticeably slow the
progress of time without being torn apart by gravitational forces, but it's a vivid illustration of the
principle in play, the narrative equivalent of a scientific thought experiment.
In other words, the problem with "The problem with..." isn't pointing out issues, but suggesting that art
should be devoid of them, that it should only answer questions and never pose them. You can take aim
at an 18-year-old Chris Rock standup routine, or you can look at its place within Rock's career as a
whole, and his arc from criticizing "bad blacks" to adapting Eric Rohmer to making jokes about 9/11.
Art — good art, at least — isn't meant to be submitted for an up or down vote. If it is, then the problem
is us.
Why It's a Great Time to Be an Independent Filmmaker
By Naomi McDougall Jones | Indiewire noviembre 13, 2014 at 9:00AM
In a guest post, writer/producer/actress Naomi McDougall Jones explains why the crisis in film
distribution has provided a great opportunity for indie filmmakers.
"Imagine I'm Beautiful"
"Imagine I'm Beautiful"
The film industry is in trouble right now. Ask anybody: our audiences have moved away from the
traditional modes of consuming (i.e. movie theaters and DVDs) and onto the internet, where they expect
to be able to get content for free/cheap (and, much of the time, stream it illegally anyway) and nobody
can figure out how to make money off movies the way we used to.
READ MORE: What Will the Future Look Like for Indie Filmmakers?
Hollywood's response to this has been to turn their attention to foreign sales; meaning that it has
become of tantamount importance to them to be able to sell each film in as many countries or "markets"
as possible.
Think about what that means content-wise, though: in order for a film to be a blockbuster in every
country on Earth, it needs to rely on basically no cultural nuance whatsoever. The broader the strokes
(and more explosions) the better, since they need the film to play and make sense to people in every and
any cultural context. So if you've wondered why Hollywood has been pumping out schlock more
mindlessly and aggressively than ever recently, there's your answer.
"Whoever figures out how to recoup the costs of their films will always get to tell their next story." Naomi McDougall Jones
As an independent filmmaker, though, I am driven by my ever-growing belief that more and more
audiences are tired of re-makes and prequels and sequels and formulized stories that have been
statistically proven to do well. I believe there are those who crave what I crave as an audience member;
to be genuinely surprised; to have my own prejudices exploded; to leave the theater altered from whom I
was when I went in.
I have ceased to be satisfied with the content coming out of the mainstream right now and I can't be the
only one. What tickets are still being sold, I think, are often cases of people wanting to go to the movies
and picking the most exciting movie of what's available to them, which is not to say they are necessarily
excited about the content.
Enter the indie filmmaker.

Because it's a brave new world and for the first time in a long time, it's truly anybody's game.
"Imagine I'm Beautiful"
"Imagine I'm Beautiful"
My production company just made our first feature, "Imagine I'm Beautiful." This is a twisty, dark,
complex psychological drama about two complicated women, one of whom suffers from a mental illness
(and we all know audiences don't like films about women, right? Right?). There are no stars in the film
and our director, Meredith Edwards, who we recognized as a formidable talent, was nevertheless, a
first-time feature director.
For all these reasons, "Imagine" was a film Hollywood never would have said "yes" to. It's an ambitious,
bold, risky story. But because we were indie filmmakers, it didn't matter.
Over the course of two years, we scraped together $80,000, with roughly half coming from
crowdfunding and half from a few private investors who were excited about the story we were telling. We
retained full creative control and, with an incredible cast and crew, got to tell exactly the story we set
out to tell, the way we wanted to tell it.
"It's a brave new world and for the first time in a long time, it's truly anybody's game." - Naomi
McDougall Jones
And then? We had a great run on the festival circuit, took home 12 awards, and got picked up for
theatrical and digital release by Candy Factory Distribution, a new, forward-thinking distribution
company that has hopped in the game to try to figure out, just as everyone else is, what exactly this
new game will be.
"Imagine I'm Beautiful" will have been released in at least 10 cities (not including festivals) by the time
we're through and, with our November 14th digital release on iTunes, Vimeo and other platforms we
stand a pretty darn good chance of recouping our investors‘ money in full.
Even more, we have made a film we feel extraordinarily proud of from an artistic standpoint and one
that audiences can be genuinely surprised by. I hear over and over from audiences on every corner of
the continent how excited they are to get to see a film that tries something different, that tells a different
kind of story.
Perhaps the future of film will be, as I imagine, smaller filmmakers like us making financially viable
content that appeals to a more specific, but more fervent fan base that will follow the filmmaker from
film to film. Or, maybe I‘m completely off track and ad-based revenue through streaming and
subscription sites is it. Even more likely, some as-yet-undreamed-of platform will rise up and change
the landscape forever once again.
The beauty of this moment, though, is that democracy has returned to filmmaking. The best ideas will
win, but everyone gets to try.
Maybe you will figure it out and maybe we will. But whoever figures out how to recoup the costs of their
films will always get to tell their next story.
And that makes it one hell of an exciting moment to be an independent filmmaker.
Naomi McDougall Jones is the writer/producer/lead actress of the feature film, ―Imagine I‘m Beautiful,‖
made by Nine Lives Pictures and released by Candy Factory Distribution. It is now available on iTunes,
Vimeo, and in cities near you. Find out more at www.imagineimbeautiful.com
Movie fiction mirrors fact for L.A.'s real-life 'nightcrawlers'
Austin, left, Howard and Marc Raishbrook make a living chasing grisly footage at night. But they are
known as news ―stringers,‖ not nightcrawlers. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

By Steven Zeitchik contact the reporter
MoviesEntertainmentHighway and Road DisastersMedia IndustryJake GyllenhaalCops (tv program)
Marc Raishbrook was showing off video of a bear when the news came. A public-transit accident.
Exposition Line. Woman possibly trapped on the tracks.
"Time to work," Raishbrook said from the back seat of his Dodge Charger.
"Probably near Vermont," his brother, Austin Raishbrook, said from the from passenger seat, as the car
idled in a downtown parking lot after midnight on a recent Saturday.
"She could be out and in the ambulance any minute," Marc said, as he tossed down the laptop, on
which he had been playing video he recently shot of a bear rummaging through trash of a suburban
restaurant, and slid behind the wheel.
"That wouldn't be good," Austin replied, as the car jetted onto the 10 Freeway.
The Real Nightcrawlers
Caption The Real Nightcrawlers
Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
Brothers Austin, Howard and Marc Raishbrook are co-owners of RMG News, a service that provides
breaking news videos to different news outlets in L.A. They were advisors on the movie "Nightcrawler."
The Real Nightcrawlers
Caption The Real Nightcrawlers
Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
Marc Raishbrook monitors scanners and news websites in his car. He and his brothers troll the streets
with their video cameras in hopes of capturing footage of breaking news.
The Real Nightcrawlers
Caption The Real Nightcrawlers
Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
Emergency vehicle lights are the backdrop of Marc Raishbrook's job as he rushes to get footage of yet
another fire scene.
The Real Nightcrawlers
Caption The Real Nightcrawlers
Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
Marc Raishbrook sets up beside a fire truck at a commercial building ablaze in Boyle Heights.
The Real Nightcrawlers
Caption The Real Nightcrawlers
Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
Marc Raishbrook captures flames leaping from a commercial building in Boyle Heights.
To many of the people who've seen writer-director Dan Gilroy's "Nightcrawler" since it hit theaters
Halloween weekend, the film is a dark fantasy, a fever dream of an L.A. that exists more on screen than
in real life. Jake Gyllenhaal's loner Lou Bloom prowls the streets during the wee hours looking for highvalue accident footage--a larger-than-life, possibly sociopathic character who seeks out the most
gruesome or sexy story he can find so he can sell it to local news stations.
But it turns out the film is a largely accurate portrayal of how half a dozen like-minded entities operate
in Los Angeles. (The British-born Raishbrooks' RMG Media, which also includes Austin's twin brother
Howard, is among the top outfits.) These are men who know your mother's advice that nothing good
happens after 2 a.m. and like it that way, choosing to work the freeways and police scanners long after
the last unionized news cameraman and (nearly every other sane Angeleno) has hit the pillow.
lRelated 'Nightcrawler' cuts it close in its dark look at local TV news
'Nightcrawler' cuts it close in its dark look at local TV news

See all related
"I think a lot of people watch the movie and think it's a heightened, very unrealistic version of the job,"
said Gyllenhaal, who went out on a ride-along with the Raishbrooks. "But everything that happened in
the film either happens all the time or has happened some time."
Like Bloom, the Raishbrooks are daredevils with a camera or vultures with a mercenary streak,
depending on how you view them (though, in an age of citizen journalism and declining TV news
budgets, their business is also beset by numerous challenges).
As in the film, there is also a sense of ruthless competition. At one site on Saturday, the Raishbrooks
arrive a minute too late, finding rival Scott Lane, a brassy man in a ballcap bearing the word "Press" in
all capital letters, already there. "Hey, nightcrawler," he smirked to Austin. (What the Raishbrooks do is
called "stringing"; the term "nightcrawler" was invented for the film.)
The real-life 'Nightcrawlers'
Howard and Austin Raishbrook, twins who are news "stringers," served as technical advisors to the new
movie "Nightcrawler." In this 2008 video, they drive the streets of Los Angeles at night looking for
newsworthy images.
And like their cinematic counterpart, the Raishbrooks also see the late-night Southland and its vast,
often-tragic geography as a dramatic canvas, undertaking Herculean efforts to ensure they have a frontrow seat.
"The idea that I'll go to sleep and miss something is enough not to make me ever go to sleep," Austin
Raishbrook said.
Gilroy wrote the script several years ago and sent the piece to Howard Raishbrook, who, along with his
brothers, came on as technical advisors to the film.
As the brothers (they usually ride separately) cruise from Inglewood to Palmdale, from Westwood to east
of downtown, their goal is to position themselves close to where a police or fire department event might
happen. The half-dozen scanners in their cars are cranked up for the latest report, their smartphones
in hand as they search for Twitter tip-offs.
When an event does happen, they must make a split-second decision before taking off in that direction,
a calculus based on a complex set of factors such as genre of incident, distance and a larger context.
La nightlife inspired art Piece!
at 11:38 PM November 12, 2014
Add a comment See all comments
That last one is trickiest. Drunk-driving accidents, mudslides, police chases — all of them have a value.
The key is figuring out which payoff is likely to be worth the time. After all, every accident you chase is
another accident you're giving up.
Car crashes are valuable, providing it was a grisly one and the scene has yet to be cleared.
Fires and natural disasters are good, but the flames or mudslides generally still need to be in full effect
when the men arrive.

A police chase is the Platonic ideal of stringing, but only if you can capture the fugitive head-on, like
returning home; long-distance video on the freeway is worthless.
And gun violence is variable. "The same shooting is worth a lot less in South Central as it is in
Brentwood," Austin Raishbrook said. "We don't usually go to Compton."
The Raishbrooks previously were featured in a reality show on TruTV titled "Stringers: LA."
Scenes from 'Nightcrawler'
Caption Scenes from 'Nightcrawler'
Chuck Zlotnick / Open Road Films
Jake Gyllenhaal in the movie "Nightcrawler."
Scenes from 'Nightcrawler'
Caption Scenes from 'Nightcrawler'
Chuck Zlotnick / Open Road Films
Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo
Scenes from 'Nightcrawler'
Caption Scenes from 'Nightcrawler'
Chuck Zlotnick / Open Road Films
On the set of "Nightcrawler."
Scenes from 'Nightcrawler'
Caption Scenes from 'Nightcrawler'
Chuck Zlotnick / Open Road Films
Jake Gyllenhaal lost 30 pounds for the role.
Scenes from 'Nightcrawler'
Caption Scenes from 'Nightcrawler'
Chuck Zlotnick / Open Road Films
Gyllenhaal sits against a palm tree in "Nightcrawler."
Though the series in 2008 was short-lived, the brothers said it reinforced their belief in the profitability
of non-news venues. Supplying entertainment footage to the likes of police-chase highlight videos, they
say, has lately become a bigger source of revenue. The show also prepared them for artistic license on
"Nightcrawlers," such as exclusive news deals ("We'd never make one," Austin said) and the inclusion of
news station scenes ("I've never visited one").
It was a trade-off they were willing to make in part because their participation netted them a bucketful
of new high-tech scanners, a currency better than gold in the stringing world.
Stringers talk of accidents the way most people talk of rare baseball cards, a jaded way of speaking that
some say puts them on ethically dubious terrain. But they and their defenders say that such criticism
misses the point.
"There are people who see stringers as ambulance chasers trying to capitalize on the gore, but that's not
how they see themselves and it's not how I see them," Gilroy said. After all, "if people didn't want to see
this, the brothers would be out of business." He said he made the film hoping people would walk out of
the theater thinking more of what it said about our media appetites than it did of the people feeding
The Raishbrooks started stringing when they arrived in Los Angeles from their small-town British
countryside home more than a decade ago. At first it was just fun, a hobby, if one harsh on their
sleeping schedule, motivated by a childhood of by watching "Cops" and other neo-vérité reality shows.
But when Lane told them they could make money, they began diving into it in earnest.
The Raishbrooks found much to like in "Nightcrawlers." "I love the way Jake captured the intensity of
what we feel every night," said Marc Raishbrook. (In a neat irony, Gilroy cast the Raishbrooks as extras
in the film who are taunting Bloom when he gets to a scene too late.)

But there are differences between the brothers' jobs and the movie.
Though a stringer could bag several thousand dollars for the right footage, in real life there is a major
market crisis. Strapped local news operations are increasingly unwilling to open up their wallets;
indeed, KTLA has just told them it won't be buying footage.
'Nightcrawler' trailer
Watch the trailer for "Nightcrawler."
Encryption on scanners has also become an issue. Reporters and stringers cried foul when the
Pasadena Police Department encrypted its scanner communications. Officials relented — slightly — and
allowed dispatch to remain unencrypted but kept the unit responses encoded. It was an empty victory
for stringers because they still didn't have the details necessary to determine whether an incident was
worth the trip.
And digital media has dramatically changed their business, generally for the worse.
"People with their iPhones are giving away the footage for nothing but a Twitter credit," Howard
Raishbrook said.
To compensate, the Raishbrooks and others are looking to shift their revenue plan. "We really need to
move to an advertising model," Austin Raishbrook said. "That's what we're trying to figure out —
advertising on YouTube.
lRelated 'Nightcrawler' cuts it close in its dark look at local TV news
'Nightcrawler' cuts it close in its dark look at local TV news
See all related
"But there you need a million hits just to make a dollar," lamented Marc Raishbrook.
There's little time for the Raishbrooks to reflect on their business as the brothers gun their Chargers
through Los Angeles. At the transit accident, Marc deposited Austin two blocks from the scene, barely
slowing as his brother jumped out and took off down the street with his camera in tow.
Austin got up on the platform to shoot the scene, then realized the woman had just been rescued,
driving the value of any footage down.
"Well, those 30 seconds cost us a bit of money," Austin said, dejectedly, as Marc joined him at his side a
moment later.
"Did you get her in the ambulance at least?" Marc said.
"Yeah," Austin said glumly.
After 33 Years and an Airplane Explosion, Their Raiders of the Lost Ark Remake Is Almost Complete.
Are They?
Comments (4)
By Amy Nicholson
Wed, Nov 12, 2014 at 7:15 AM
Categories: Film and TV, Longform
Illustration by Tim Gabor

Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala had dreamed about the Flying Wing airplane since 1981, the summer
the two middle schoolers saw its propellers shred the head off a German muscleman in Raiders of the
Lost Ark. Thirty-three years later, they built it: a 78-foot-long, 4½-ton, gray-green beast that loomed
like a frozen vulture midflight. It was the world's only full-scale replica of the Flying Wing. And now they
had to blow it up. "I feel kind of sick," Strompolos sighs. "But it has to be done — and it has to be done
for real."
After three decades, they were finally wrapping the longest film shoot in history.
As children in Mississippi, Chris and Eric had made a pact. They'd film a shot-for-shot remake of
Raiders of the Lost Ark. Chris, a chipper, chubby idea guy, would star; Eric, who at 11 was the older
and steadier of the two, would direct. They bought a spiral notebook and filled it with sketches and
plans. Chris titled it Raiders of the Lost Ark: Kids Version. Then he scribbled out the second half and
wrote The New Version. Age would not be a factor.
"We didn't want it to look cute, we didn't want it to be 'Aw, that's adorable,' " Eric says. "We wanted it to
be good."
The boys thought filming would take a summer. It took eight years.
The first summer, they storyboarded and gathered props: a jacket, a hat, a whip. The second summer,
they got a camera, found a Marion, enlisted cameraman and effects wizard Jayson Lamb — a classmate
hired after he MacGyvered a passable corpse from Brillo pads, caulk and brown paint — and shot the
opening jungle scene and the flaming bar fight.
Just before school started, crises struck: Eric's parents announced they were getting a divorce, their
Marion announced she was moving to Alaska, and Jayson realized he'd screwed up the camcorder
settings and burned a tiny A into the corner of the frame.
Summer three, they started over.
When Raiders needed a monkey, they used Chris' dog, Snickers. When they needed a new Marion, they
wooed a pretty girl from church to give up her summers and hang with the geeks. (Says Chris, "I
thought she was cool because she smoked cigarettes. Capri Lights.") She was Chris' first kiss and they
flirted until she ditched him for an extra playing a Nazi. When they needed an Egyptian tomb, they
stenciled hieroglyphics in Eric's basement. When the script called for a bar fire, they poured 36 bottles
of rubbing alcohol on themselves and the cellar walls and lit a match. (That move got production
grounded for a year.)
Eric, who doubled as the opportunistic French archaeologist Belloq, singed his hair. Before shooting
wrapped, he'd also broken an arm and been rushed to the hospital after Jayson used industrial plaster
to make a mold of his face. (The ER doctors had to break him out with sledgehammers and chain saws.)
Astonishingly, Chris completed the film unscathed — a wonder, given that he did every one of Indiana
Jones' stunts without Harrison Ford's innate athleticism (or four stunt doubles).
"I'm a stubby Greek guy, and he's an angular, 6-foot, 1-inch movie star," Strompolos admits today. But
in front of the cameras he was a natural, his puppy fat balanced out by his strong jawline, loose grace
and total commitment.
"For Chris, it was wanting to be Indiana Jones and saving the girl. For me, it was, 'OK, what would a
shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark look like?' " Eric says. "Tracing the footsteps of the
master — what a great learning tool."
The boys built giant test boulders from papier-mâché, chicken wire, bamboo sticks and a giant cable
spool, until they figured out Fiberglas was best. They filmed scenes in alleys and dirt quarries and

alligator-infested rivers, enlisted every neighborhood kid they knew as an extra, dragged Chris behind a
truck, and rigged their own explosives from gunpowder Jayson bought at Mom and Pop's General Store
and Gun Shop, even though he was so short he could barely reach over the counter. After a three-year
letter-writing campaign, they even convinced a naval captain to loan them a battleship and submarine.
It sounds like fun, and sometimes it was. More often, it was stressful.
"I was haunted by a sense of dread," Eric recalls. " 'None of this counts if we don't finish.' "
When they edited the footage during the graveyard shift at the local news station, where Chris' mother
was a news anchor, they made peace with the way that the actors had visibly skipped in age with each
scene change: 13 to 17 to 16 to 14. It was as though Indy were leaping in and out of a wormhole. It
would have to do.
Still, the most amazing thing about Raiders: The Adaptation isn't that the friends conceived of it. It's
that they completed it.
They couldn't get a plane.
Without one, Eric and Chris were forced to leave out Raiders of the Lost Ark's six-minute, most
complicated action scene. It goes like this: Indiana Jones and Marion break out of an archaeological site
called the Well of Souls, where they've been left to rot by the Nazis. Jones spots a Nazi plane — the
Flying Wing — and guesses the Ark of the Covenant is aboard. He conks a mechanic and wearily boxes
a second, shirtless, macho man.
Screenshot from the original Raiders of the Lost Ark airplane fight scene
Screenshot from the original Raiders of the Lost Ark airplane fight scene
Meanwhile, Marion gets trapped inside the cockpit while the plane starts spinning in circles. Soldiers
attack. Marion machine-guns them down, punctures a fuel truck and accidentally ignites a barrel of
dynamite. As fire crawls toward the plane, Indiana Jones is knocked to the ground just before a
propeller grinds up the German's head. Jones frees Marion and the two heroes sprint to safety as the
Flying Wing explodes.
Even if they could have borrowed a plane, what madman would have let children blow it sky-high?
Jayson suggested they use miniatures. Eric, a literalist, refused. If Spielberg had used a real plane, so
would they.
Then they realized a weakness in the script. Narratively, the Flying Wing scene was pointless. The Ark
was never on the plane. Indiana Jones and Marion had murdered a dozen people for no reason at all. In
fact, Raiders: The Adaptation could cut from the Well of Souls escape to Jones chasing down the Ark on
horseback without missing a beat.
The young filmmakers wrapped without it. By then, the high school seniors were barely speaking,
thanks to a fight over a girl and the sense that the whole thing was kind of embarrassing. They left
Mississippi for college and moved on with their lives.
Eventually, Chris and Eric both wound up in L.A. Strompolos formed a rock band and lost much of his
20s to meth; Zala became a manager at a video game company. Raiders was a goof, a childhood fixation
stashed away on a VHS tape, given no more importance than the Ark itself, left languishing in a
warehouse at the end of the real movie. Their film remained forgotten for 25 years.

Chris Strompolos (Indy), left, Angela Rodriguez (Marion), director Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb reunite for
the first time in years. - PHOTO BY AMY NICHOLSON
Photo by Amy Nicholson
Chris Strompolos (Indy), left, Angela Rodriguez (Marion), director Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb reunite
for the first time in years.
In the iconic opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones slashes through a buried
Peruvian temple to snatch a legendary golden idol, which then is grabbed by his rival, Belloq, to be
passed on again to the highest bidder. That's kind of how Raiders: The Adaptation was rediscovered.
In 1994, while 24-year-old Zala was living in L.A., his then-roommate secretly dubbed a copy of the film
and showed it to friends, who then dubbed copies of their own. Without either Strompolos or Zala
realizing it, their hobby had become Hollywood lore. Horror director Eli Roth snagged a tape and gave it
to film blogger Harry Knowles, who shared it with Alamo Drafthouse owner Tim League in Austin,
Texas. In 2003, Roth also contacted Steven Spielberg's office, and the director was so impressed that he
penned individual letters to Strompolos, Zala and Lamb.
"Beyond all the mimicry of the original Raiders, I saw and appreciated the vast amounts of imagination
and originality you put in your film," Spielberg wrote. "I'll be waiting to see your names someday on the
big screen."
Spielberg, too, had started making movies when he was 11. At 12, he convinced an airport in
Scottsdale, Arizona, to let him borrow a plane for his World War II short (no explosions required). He
spent the next three years fixated on a longer, 40-minute flick designed around a battle scene so epic
that he mimicked the effect of dozens of soldiers by convincing the neighborhood kids to run past the
camera, circle behind it, and then run past it again.
"He was very serious about what the result was supposed to be," recalls Mike McNamara, one of
Spielberg's childhood extras. "It was unbelievable. It was scary."
Spielberg learned by experimentation. He tied cameras to his dog, spent hours splashing water in the
bathroom sink to study sound effects, and figured out how to fake bullets with flour. He stuck to it and
became a filmmaker. Strompolos and Zala hadn't.
In fact, the letter was their first sign that Raiders: The Adaptation had been disinterred — a bolt of
lightning out of the blue. They didn't know that their adolescent project had become the buzz of
Hollywood; that wasn't their scene. At his 10-year high school reunion, Zala had fallen for a former
classmate, a lovely brunette named Cassie, married her and moved home to Mississippi. Strompolos
was a newlywed, too. At a rock show, he'd met a glamorous goth named Monica, who stabilized his life.
The letter changed everything. They met Spielberg and shook his hand. Tim League premiered the film
in Austin and flew in the cast and crew. It was the first time Strompolos and Zala had seen Lamb and
Angela Rodriguez, their Marion, since high school. Vanity Fair published a profile. Paramount optioned
their life story for its own movie and hired Ghost World's Daniel Clowes to write the script. Their
shameful secret was suddenly hip.
"It was one of those things where you go, 'Oh wow, that sounds really interesting, maybe I can watch it
for 10 minutes before I get bored,' " Quentin Tarantino says. "Then they start bowling you over with
their ingenuity. Because you know the movie so well, you can't wait for them to do the next scene. 'How
are they going to do this? Well, they can't do that!' And then they come up with a way to do it."
Overnight, Zala and Strompolos were dusting off their dreams of succeeding in Hollywood. Legally, they
couldn't make money from what was, in essence, Lucasfilm's property. They could only screen Raiders:
The Adaptation for charity. But hey, Tarantino had seen their film. Maybe this could kickstart a second
act: a grown-up filmmaking career?

Zala quit his job. He and Strompolos took meetings. They pitched their own action-adventure script —
an original one — about a man who rescues his father from a river cult. To them, it was a more
personal story, a Southern Gothic drawn as much from their childhood in the swamps as from the
Indiana Jones heroism they loved. They had an agent and a manager and moderate interest.
Summer rains turned the shoot's ―desert‖ into foot-deep Mississippi mud. - PHOTO BY AMY
Photo by Amy Nicholson
Summer rains turned the shoot's ―desert‖ into foot-deep Mississippi mud.
But the suits wouldn't let them direct. After all, what had Strompolos and Zala proven? That they had
been dutiful, pubescent mimics? The zeitgeist was against them. Before Paramount green-lit its Raiders
biopic, two other movies about outsiders remaking movies premiered: the British romp Son of Rambow,
about two kids filming an adaptation of First Blood, and Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind, a goofy
comedy in which videostore clerks Jack Black and Mos Def shot slapdash versions of Ghostbusters and
Rush Hour 2. Industry interest cooled.
So they kept touring with Raiders: The Adaptation. By 2011, they'd screened it 85 times. They even
published a book, Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made. Six years had passed and
Spielberg still hadn't seen their names on the big screen. By now, they were both fathers. It was time to
put Raiders behind them. Again.
Both returned to their old jobs. At the video game company where Zala worked, he'd fallen behind. An
employee he'd hired years before had, in his absence, become his boss. He and Cassie and their two
kids left Mississippi and moved to Las Vegas. Strompolos stayed in L.A. and was hired as a manager in
Sony's DVD department.
In a way, that was fitting. During the eight years that Chris and Eric shot Raiders: The Adaptation, the
way we watch movies had changed. By the time they wrapped filming in 1989, the percentage of
households that owned VCRs skyrocketed from 3 to 68. Four years later, that number was 90 percent.
Before the '80s, there were only two ways to see a movie: when it played in a theater, and when it
played on TV. Either way, a movie was an event.
"Before VCRs, something like The French Connection opens up in 1971 and plays for years. If you
fucked around and you didn't see it, too bad," Tarantino says. "From that point on, unless you see it at
a revival house, it's gone — we've lost The French Connection."
Loving movies, as Tarantino and Spielberg did, meant submitting to them. Every Saturday morning,
Spielberg's dad would drop him off at the movie theater to watch whatever was playing, no questions
asked: sci-fi, Westerns, Tarzan flicks, cartoons and, of course, adventure serials, his memories of which
would mutate decades later into Indiana Jones. As for TV, both fledgling directors had no choice but to
stay up late to watch movies they wanted to see or, conversely, to watch whatever movie was airing
right then, even if they'd never heard of it. Creative influences hit them like shotgun spray:
indiscriminate and random and powerful.
With the rise of the VCR, viewers could now "watch whatever whenever" — the tag-line of the Sony
Betamax. Audiences were in control. They could tape movies off TV for later viewing, rent movies at the
video store and, if they really loved something, buy it on cassette for $80. In one decade, the grand
silver screen had been shrunken and domesticated. It could be tamed and stacked. Instead of a roaring
lion, it was a house cat.
Naturally, as kids, Chris and Eric had purchased a copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark when it was released
in 1984. Everybody did — it was the best-selling cassette of its time. They'd been relieved to realize their

recall of the film had been mostly accurate. Some images were flipped — Chris would enter a scene from
the right instead of the left — but overall, they were proud.
Still, now that they could memorize Raiders for real, they did. They'd quiz one another. Eric would leave
the room and Chris would pause the film on a blurry frame. " 'Is that when the wheelbarrow in the
Cairo fight scene blocks the camera?' " Eric would guess. Yup.
The ability to own a movie changes our relationship with it. A favorite movie becomes a friend, one you
invite along when you're feeling social, summon when you're feeling low and command to watch over
you as you fall asleep. In return, we become our favorite movies — they're a shorthand to our
personality, which we trumpet on Facebook lists and dating sites, as though a mutual obsession with
The Big Lebowski is the foundation of a love connection. And perhaps it is.
Hollywood, too, used the VCR to define its catalog. It culled through its archives to convert old movies to
VHS, repackaging them as classics to justify the hefty price tag. The VCR allowed the industry to create
a fixed canon: Here are the films that deserve a place on your shelf. Instead of an industry driven by
fresh releases, now the money came from encouraging people to hoard the past.
Children of the '80s added their new favorite films to the list: Goonies, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,
Sixteen Candles, Revenge of the Nerds and, of course, Raiders of the Lost Ark. In earlier generations,
half of those movies would have been lost to history. Thanks to the VCR, they were beatified. This was
the first era when every kid in America could create — and catch up to — a shared movie culture. You
didn't need to make it to the multiplex the one month The Breakfast Club was in town. You could rent it
whenever — no child left behind.
But there's a catch.
Ever felt as if cinema has stagnated since the '80s? The VCR, and its intrinsic fixation on the past, is
one reason.
Soon it wasn't just obsessives like Zala and Strompolos watching and rewatching their favorites. It was
all of us. And it changed Hollywood.
We're now living through the first era of filmmakers who've been shaped by home video.
Angela Rodriguez as Marion, in a gun turret made in a basement workshop - COURTESY OF SHELLY
Courtesy of Shelly Stallings
Angela Rodriguez as Marion, in a gun turret made in a basement workshop
Unlike the randomness that created Spielberg and Tarantino, today's 35-year-old director has
controlled his creative influences since childhood. Call it the Great Rewind — these auteurs obsessively
locked into his or her own personal canon. That has an effect.
At its best, you get Zala and Strompolos endlessly studying Raiders of the Lost Ark. At its worst, you get
a generation with curated myopia that has redefined great filmmaking as everything they loved as a kid
— the superhero movies and action flicks that dominate the modern release calendar — while limiting
exposure to musicals, romances and grown-up dramas in which people talk about their feelings.
Today we're seeing the effects of the VCR canon not just in scripts but also in how movies are green-lit
and shot. As movie fans increasingly devoted a larger share of their dollars to the films of their youth,
studio execs sought out projects that would sell as many tapes as tickets.
"When an art form becomes increasingly enclosed, it confines itself to within itself," says Dean K.
Simonton, a UC Davis professor of psychology who studies creativity. "This happens to most art forms:
It reaches the point that it stops being creative because there's just too much history behind it. The

movie producers themselves can't get out of the rut of thinking of all the videos they saw when they
grew up, which informed how you make a movie to them."
Young directors now have 100 years of film history at their fingertips to tell them how to stage a scene.
By contrast, the first wave of great directors had to think for themselves. "You had a lot of innovation
because people like Orson Welles came out of the theater, and they had totally naive attitudes about
what they could do," Simonton notes.
In his backyard in Scottsdale, young Spielberg figured out how to fake airplane crashes and zinging
bullets. Decades later, Strompolos and Zala simply had to figure out how to imitate him.
Yet Strompolos and Zala's Spielberg imitation hadn't earned them Spielberg's career. Then they met the
ultimate Raiders superfan: Guy Klender.
In 2008, they held a Los Angeles premiere of Raiders at Mann's Chinese Theatre. Klender showed up at
9 a.m. — 10 hours early. A fast-talking, lanky, bald bartender, he knew even more about the franchise
than they did.
At 12, Klender had bought a $5 bullwhip in Tijuana and tried to use it to swing over a ravine. He fell 25
feet. His mom had cracked, "Well, you're not Indiana Jones." As an adult, he tried the stunt again in
Kauai, where the scene was originally shot. This time, he fell 100 feet and got stitches in his head.
Klender even made extra cash as a consultant for a toy manufacturer. The company would show him a
mock-up of an Indiana Jones action figure and he'd tsk-tsk, "You've blended four costumes together —
in Temple of Doom, the crown of his hat is slightly different, plus the color of the band. His jacket
changed, and he no longer wears a dark brown belt."
At the Q&A after Zala and Strompolos' movie, Klender shot up his hand and asked about the Flying
Wing scene. Would they ever go back and film it? Clutching the mic, he volunteered to play the doomed
German himself: "I'll grow a mustache and hit the gym hard."
The muscular German (Rob Fuller) menaces Indy (Strompolos) - COURTESY OF SHELLY STALLINGS
Courtesy of Shelly Stallings
The muscular German (Rob Fuller) menaces Indy (Strompolos)
Strompolos and Zala said no. They wanted to tell their own stories, not finish telling one that was three
decades old. But gradually, Strompolos realized that a finished Flying Wing sequence would be the
ultimate sample reel: a glossy, Rube Goldberg–ian fight scene with four explosions and plenty of wow.
Strompolos pitched the idea to Jeremy Coon, the producer of Napoleon Dynamite, who agreed to fly to
Mississippi with his filmmaking partner, Tim Skousen, and shoot a documentary if the guys gave them
a good hook.
Zala was reluctant.
"Mentally, he wasn't there," Strompolos says.
"I've got gray hair," Zala says. "Instead of this endless summer, you've got mortgage payments to worry
Doing the scene right meant raising money to build the Flying Wing, locating a suitable desert, getting
costumes, wrangling Arab and Nazi extras, tracking down vintage trucks, erecting a guard tower,
renting a camel, carving the Well of Souls and then blowing up the whole set.

That was just what they'd have to capture on film. Now that they were adults, they also had to follow
the rules: insurance, good cameras, a sign-off from the local fire marshal, even craft services. "If we're
really doing this, we have to deliver," Strompolos says. "No excuse being young, dumb kids."
Klender agreed to produce, provided he could also play the pilot — a role that Raiders producer Frank
Marshall had played in the original. He even convinced luxury cosplay designer Todd Coyle to donate
thousands of dollars worth of costumes, perfect replicas of everything from Indy's jacket and Marion's
torn white dress to Belloq's pale linen suit.
Even with Klender and Coyle on board, Zala estimated it would cost more than $50,000, 10 times the
budget of their original Raiders, and a year's worth of work, all for six minutes of film, which would
start with teenage Strompolos smashing through the Well of Souls and emerging a 42-year-old man.
"Chris was, like, 'Noooo!' But it's accurate," Zala says. "It's a different thing going into it knowing the
price, literally and figuratively — knowing how fragile the human body is and how much can go wrong."
The Flying Wing shoot had been a nightmare even for Spielberg and Lucas. On the set in 1980, former
Washington Post reporter Nancy Moran described the original's Tunisian disaster, which started with
the entire cast and crew being stricken with food poisoning. "Steven is sitting on the tarmac under his
Flying Wing and saying he wants to go home. He says it's 120 degrees inside his head. Everyone is sick.
George is looking more like Howard Hughes every day. He will be arriving with his feet in Kleenex boxes
The local supervisor in charge of the Arab extras avoided giving them anything to drink. When the
Tunisian fire department poured water on the ground, hundreds of people tried to lap it up. Later, the
department's hose pulled apart at the joints and, in the ultimate irony, caught fire.
"The fire department had to put out their own hose," producer Frank Marshall recalled. "It was like a
slapstick comedy."
Lucas told Spielberg he was heading home. "I need your support," Spielberg pleaded. "I need your moral
support, your immoral support." Left alone, Spielberg paced the set, stroking a snake from the Well of
Souls like a string of prayer beads.
Day player George the Camel with his handler, Frankie - PHOTO BY AMY NICHOLSON
Photo by Amy Nicholson
Day player George the Camel with his handler, Frankie
Still, compared to Zala and Strompolos, Spielberg had it easy. He had a studio budget and hundreds of
helpers. More importantly, he had creative freedom. If a shot wasn't working, he could change it. If a
stunt failed, he could scrap it.
By contrast, The Adaptation was manacled to Spielberg's caprice. Strompolos and Zala committed to
matching even the near-impossible and nonsensical. If you watch the Flying Wing scene carefully,
Spielberg makes a lot of mistakes. Rocks and barrels shift in the background. In one shot, an Arab
extra lies unconscious just feet from where Indy and Marion exit the Well of Souls — the leftovers of a
fist fight Spielberg edited out. When the German punches Indy on the right cheek, Ford whirls in the
wrong direction. And when Klender freeze-framed every shot of the wooden crate containing the Ark so
he could hammer an exact replica, he noticed something odd: Spielberg hadn't used one crate — he'd
used five.
Mimicry can be even harder than the original. Just ask Gus Van Sant, who released a near-identical
remake of Psycho in 1998 — what he calls a prank gone wrong.
"It was a passive-aggressive idea," Van Sant admits.

Frustrated that, at meetings, studios were pressing him to direct sequels and remakes — "their favorite
things'' — Van Sant had suggested shooting a shot-for-shot redo of Psycho; it was half joke, half poison
pill. "I thought if it worked, it could be a virus that infected the whole studio. It would get the studios in
this even worse embroilment of remaking their own stuff."
He kept bringing it up for eight years. "It was amusing to me," Van Sant says. The studio heads would
laugh. But after he won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting, the execs got serious.
"The answer came, 'We think that's brilliant, we can't wait,' " Van Sant says. "I thought, 'Oh shit.' "
Building the world‘s first replica of Steven Spielberg‘s original 78-foot-long custom plane - PHOTO BY
Photo by Amy Nicholson
Building the world‘s first replica of Steven Spielberg‘s original 78-foot-long custom plane
Though Van Sant says he tried to re-create Psycho faithfully, even watching a DVD of the original before
every take, from the first scene, his version is different. Van Sant's Psycho is a fascinating experiment in
how casting can change a whole movie. Janet Leigh had such a scary sex appeal that her Marion was
able to rattle Norman Bates (and his mother) just by inviting him into her room for a sandwich. But in
the remake, instead of the sandwich scene goading Norman to kill, Anne Heche plays it like a goof,
upending the entire film's psychosexual dynamic.
"If somebody holds a camera and takes a picture, and then has somebody else hold the camera and
take the same picture, they're still different because there's an energy that makes tiny, slight, little
decisions that affect the subject," Van Sant admits. "Even though you're copying something, it was
impossible to copy."
Re-creating a film is like a mathematician trying to reach absolute zero. The closer you get, the more
you realize you'll never be close at all. Take the canyon blooper in Raiders of the Lost Ark, when a stray
fly buzzes into Belloq's mouth. Spielberg himself could have shot that scene 200 times and it wouldn't
have happened again. Or the rat that runs in circles by the Ark, as though transfixed. Its trainer later
conceded it was a beautiful accident — the rat was deaf and had an equilibrium problem.
Unlike Van Sant, at least in the beginning, Strompolos and Zala couldn't rewatch the first film before
every take. In 1981, they didn't have a VCR. Neither did 97 percent of American households. Instead,
Strompolos and Zala re-created the film from research: the script, comic books, 45 records ("When you
hear the sound of the bullet, turn the page!" Zala jokes), magazines and even a muffled audio recording
surreptitiously made in the theater.
"I think Eric has a photographic memory," Lamb says. Young Zala spent that first summer drawing 602
They had something more important than an exact template: the freedom of imagination.
"Before there were videocassettes you could rent, if you really liked a movie, the one thing you could do
other than see it again and again and again and again in theaters was buy the soundtrack album,"
Tarantino says. As an 18-year-old wannabe filmmaker, he'd bought a copy of John Williams' Raiders
soundtrack. "I'd go home and put on the music for the truck chase, and then I would remember the
chase: When the horns do this, that's when that happens, and that's when this happens, and it was
like watching the chase all over again."
He then took it further and concocted his own movies.
"Eventually, I started coming up with my own scenes for these pieces of music," Tarantino says. "Scenes
I came up with in my bedroom, I've actually done!"

But in 2014, Zala and Strompolos found themselves chained to the literalness of a DVD that they'd
memorized, frame by frame.
In Mississippi, Strompolos and Zala faced their last shot at screen perfection, and there were
Kickstarter backers — $58,273 worth, more than they'd asked for, less than they realized they needed
— expecting them to deliver.
Chris Strompolos, as Indy, delivers a kick to the Mechanic (Ryan Pierini).s - COURTESY OF SHELLY
Courtesy of Shelly Stallings
Chris Strompolos, as Indy, delivers a kick to the Mechanic (Ryan Pierini).s
"Here we are still doing Raiders in our 40s, it's like, 'Jesus, what's the mark they're going to hit?' "
Strompolos admits. Now the bar was much, much higher. "It's cool in concept that we're putting the
band back together and going to our hometown to create this missing scene, but we need to earn the
same reaction as watching us kids light ourselves on fire and drag me behind a truck: 'Holy shit, I can't
believe they did it!' "
Disaster stalked their set. The plane was a week late, thanks to pounding thunderstorms that in
minutes turned their "desert" — a clay quarry — into an 11-inch-deep mud pit. Then the propellers
didn't work. They'd have to use CGI.
The production started behind and stayed that way. The moment the first raindrops fell, everyone
stopped filming and raced for their cars. Even when the rain stopped, the shoot had to be scrapped for
a day for the ground to dry.
Strompolos had prepared to play Indy by hitting the gym and losing 45 pounds. But his childhood
Marion, now a stocker at an Ikea in Minnesota, had become embittered toward the project. She refused
to send Coyle her measurements and threatened to show up with her hair bleached blond. Her first day
in the makeup trailer, she snapped, "I'm not a real actress, bitch."
The local special-effects experts were all busy with larger films. Finally, Strompolos found Dan Todd, a
veteran with an Alabama drawl, a small-time crew and a big stash of explosive black powder. Todd
couldn't wait to blow up the plane. And the guard tower. And the truck. And anything else they'd let
him detonate.
The other people they hired were ambitious but easily discouraged. Zala's wife, Cassie, a charming
schoolteacher who had to step in as production manager, tried to keep spirits high.
Still, they lost most of their production assistants after the first hard day, and their assistant director
soon after. Between takes, the Arab extras talked about breaking into the business and griped when
Coyle asked them to smear mud on their robes. Someone snuck into a trailer and stole Chris' iPhone.
At least the site looked fantastic. Every detail was in place: the plane, the white circle around the plane,
the thatched-roof shack, the skinny guard tower and, of course, the Well of Souls, which Klender and
his friend Jason Thompson had meticulously replicated brick by brick at a warehouse in California,
even having requested Mississippi soil samples so the paint would match the ground. They also found
an outstanding beefy German: Rob Fuller, a former stripper and straight male hairdresser from
Missouri, who gamely bleached his eyebrows and mustache for the part.
The first time Strompolos and Zala had the entire thing just right, they embraced.
"This is our movie set," Strompolos grinned.
Zala, ever the logician, corrected him with a smile: "Well, it's somebody else's movie set."

Now, the only thing that could screw up were the humans. Before each take, they'd play that fragment
of the Flying Wing scene on a computer monitor, memorizing every flailing arm and wobbly ankle. It
was right there next to their own cameras, goading them toward impossible perfection. They'd get close
but never exactly right.
The first days of the shoot, Zala struggled not to waste time while filming six, eight, 12 takes. Toward
the end, knowing he could lose his job if he didn't fly home on Tuesday, he and Strompolos accepted
that it just needed to get done and made peace with their flaws.
Stunt double Casey Dillard prepares for the explosion. - PHOTO BY AMY NICHOLSON
Photo by Amy Nicholson
Stunt double Casey Dillard prepares for the explosion.
And then on Monday, the day special effects expert Dan Todd was supposed to blow up the plane, none
of his helpers showed.
The 9,000-pound Flying Wing was supposed to explode before lunch, early enough that all the
Kickstarter backers and family members could applaud the filmmakers' final triumph from a hilltop
before the temperature broke 90.
Yet at noon, Todd and Klender and a few untrained volunteers remained under the plane, stuffing it
with dynamite and cans of gasoline.
They were still at it at 1. And at 2. The crowd was sunburned and sweaty. Everyone was on edge.
Finally, Todd took his makeshift detonation team members safely behind a hill and led them in a prayer
circle. This was it.
They lit the barrels on fire as Strompolos and stunt double Casey Dillard stood unnervingly close to the
plane — by then, a bomb — and readied themselves to run as soon as Zala yelled action. They only had
one take to get this right.
The plan was straightforward: When they sprinted across the white circle, the fuel truck would explode.
When they reached the final barrel, the Flying Wing would blow.
Zala called action. They ran. The fuel truck exploded. They passed the barrel. A tiny plume burst from
the wing. Nothing else.
Up on the hill, a few people cried. Below, the crew panicked.
Chris Strompolos and Casey Dillard, seen on far right, run as the fuel truck explodes — but the
plane does not. - PHOTO BY AMY NICHOLSON
Photo by Amy Nicholson
Chris Strompolos and Casey Dillard, seen on far right, run as the fuel truck explodes — but the
plane does not.
"I can make it go!" Todd yelled into the walkie-talkie. He had to. He strutted to the flaming plane.
He was under the wing when a tire burst. The flames grew.
Everyone screamed at Todd to get out of there. He shuffled back a step, then considered his next move.
The Flaming Wing exploded.
Photo by Amy Nicholson

The fireball was more than 100 feet high. The shock somersaulted Todd backward, one, two, three
rotations. He lay there, unconscious, as one of the documentary cameramen ran up to drag him to
The Flaming Wing exploded again. Then again.
Now it was total panic. The on-set fire trucks, figuring this was part of the scene, hadn't moved. Finally,
they caught on and sprayed down the flames.
Only then did Todd, now safely 60 feet away, open his eyes. "Did we get the shot?"
Zala ran up the hill to hug his weeping son and daughter and collapsed. "My heart is going to start
again sometime next week," he panted.
After 33 years, Raiders: The Adaptation was complete.
It wasn't perfect. But it was good enough.

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