A stagebound musical comedy Bergman released in 1975 in between some of his most severe movies.

Prince Tamino is rescued from a dragon by three women who fight over him while he’s still comatose. Papageno is a cheerful fellow in green with panpipes. Despite their seeming useless, Prince and Papa are roped into a rescue mission by the queen, given the flute, and assigned guardian spirits (three boys in a hot air balloon). The rest is a long, tiresome adventure, all meant to look like it’s happening onstage (with cutaway closeups of audience members). I did enjoy when the Prince bumped into a librarian when seeking the Evil Sarastro, and they argue since the librarian sees Sarastro as a wise king and the Prince as a stupid intruder. It turns out both sides want the prince to marry the princess, so all’s well, but the queen still wants to fight, so she teams up with an Evil Black Man for a final showdown against Sarastro and company. I may have gotten into jazz this year, but opera is a step too far. Conclusion: Mozart is boring.

Sarastro would later narrate Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom:


The Magic Flute (1946, Paul Grimault)

No feuding royalty and beautiful daughters here. A colorful birdie transforms into a magic flute that makes people dance themselves into trouble, and the Chimney Thief uses it to barge into a castle and torment everyone inside.

Filmed in Rotterdam and Minnesota. Formerly known as the greatest concert movie ever made, Stop Making Sense has a new challenger.

“Sign” – Just dance and vocal over the tape until Prince stops whipping his guitar around and gets down to playing it, camera flying over the stage, the rest of the group arriving marching-band-style.

“Sunshine” – Sheila has so many drums… the risers are 6 feet high… this camerawork is too composed to be spontaneous.

“Corvette” – Prince is suddenly at a piano in a different outfit, or did he just lose the glasses and the lighting changed?

“Housequake” – Haha they cut Corvette short for this. Not a great song but everyone gets to sing and P does the splits.

“Slow Love” – Crooner P tears his shirt open, lighters in the crowd, the backup singers are doing a little relationship skit, the sax player is dressed like a monk.

“I Could Never” – Brass-heavy, this time the skit has dialogue, oh no, but otherwise this is pure fire, closes with a wandering guitar section.

“Hot Thing” – Definitely a costume change, more of a sexy dance routine to a drum machine beat than a song (that’s not a complaint). All the songs I skip on the album work great in the stage show. Some of the crowd has lost their shirts at this point.

“Now’s the Time” – A staged brawl while the band jazzes out.

“U Got the Look” – Just a music video, we’re not pretending this one is being played live. Opens with a complex montage, then P duets with some redhaired woman, neither of them have mics, everyone in the band is dancing.

“If I Was Your Girlfriend” – The band is sidelined, P in fur coat with wind machine, he has sex with a dancer.

“Forever In Your Life” – Costume change, now P looks like a train conductor. You can kinda hear the acoustic guitar, but mostly it’s voice and beats, and goes on forever like the title says.

“Beautiful Night” – Falsetto in police hat, P and Sheila swap jobs.

“The Cross” – Skits reprise over a stripped-down first half, going big at the end.

None of my notes are useful (see Goodbye Dragon Inn instead) because I assumed I was going to rewatch it with Katy, and maybe someday I will. The lyrics to “America” and “Gee Officer Krupke” are so great, the actors and camera work are swell, and it’s all a Lincoln Center origin story.

“You Can Get It If You Really Want” is the movie’s theme song and motto. Seems like Jimmy Cliff gets to have it all here: a film spotlighting his music, starring himself as a songwriter turned rebel turned cop killer, his character dying gloriously in a shootout.

First thing he does when he gets to Kingston is get robbed, and the second thing is to watch Django. He hooks up with a preacher’s girl, semi-legitimately gets a bicycle, falls into the drug business, becomes a celebrity fugitive. The final stand is intercut with a movie theater audience, life and death becoming a show.

The director’s daughter for Criterion:

He was already well established as a musical artist in Jamaica. All those tracks on the album, except “The Harder They Come,” had already been recorded by Jimmy before he was cast. But the recording of that song depicted in the film was the actual recording, and he wrote it after a conversation with Perry during the filming of the movie.

I skipped a couple Garrels since Le Revelateur, decided to watch some 1972 films on their 50-ish anniversaries. Garrel + Nico = an unexpected rock musical. Liturgical voice and organ songs, incredible long takes in different forbidding environments.

Nico cries in the desert with Vest Guy (Daniel Pommereulle of La Collectionneuse), both of them wearing flowy sleeves – this section features a 720-degree slow pan over a Nico song – then she follows and berates him down a white road.

Another Nico song, a good one, kid leads a horse away from a flame circle, Vest Guy gives Nico a small goat, and so on… then Pierre Clémenti arrives nude. He journeys far and long, barefoot across a volcano, to bring gifts to a baby (played by his son) on an iceberg. Nico, practically the only person who speaks (in English and German), calls the nude archer “king.” There’s some kinda final confrontation near a rocky cave involving a sword. It’s all a very different kind of mythology than The Spine of Night, but felt right to be watching these two in the same week.

The American Movie of the theater scene, guy spending years working on an epic that is never finished, then turns his own creative process into art instead. Andrew Garfield plays the guy who would later write Rent, Miranda stuffs the cast with theater people we didn’t recognize, and the whole thing is charming with good music.

Charles Bramesco called Garfield exhausting and said Larson’s “pre-success years play like fan fiction of his own life.”

This was chosen as a movie to please everyone at Thanksgiving, and it mostly worked out.
We also attempted to watch:

Brutish Adam Driver and delicate Marion Cotillard get together and have a magical singing baby, to the consternation of accompanist Simon Helberg – and it’s all performed as an opera written by Sparks, who appear (along with the director and his daughter, the film’s dedicatee) with the cast in the great opening number. A good pick for my first movie back in theaters for over a year.

I read so many articles on this, and have gone back and forth about aspects of it, but it seems like a movie that’s gonna last. Bilge’s second Vulture article helped with the ending (which I didn’t love at the time), Sicinski’s analysis also useful (“even its flaws are kind of endearing”), and the GQ interview with Simon Helberg gives insight into Carax’s methods. And from the NY Times:

At first, Carax turned down the offer, not wanting the film’s fraught father-daughter relationship to confuse his own teenage daughter, Nastya, or invite speculation on the parallels between the film and his life, given his tendency to transform his male leads into proxies of himself. He reversed course, however, when she took a liking to songs Sparks had sent him, creating the opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings.

How To with John Wilson (2020)
Painting with John (2021)

Two low-fi HBO shows made by very different auteur-Johns. Both shows seem like each episode is a new random doc segment of a John’s life, then in the final episode you realize they’ve taken you on a journey with purpose. This is my new favorite kind of show.

“I crashed seven drones.” Lurie’s playfulness extends to the filmmaking, where he shows a domestic scene then replays it with added laugh track. Unlike the fishing show in a couple major ways: no celebrity guests, and John can actually paint.

Wilson’s show loves visual puns and sidetracks following unusual characters. In an episode on improving memory, while looking for a Zagnut bar he meets a supermarket inventory system developer who is obsessed with the Mandela Effect (“I found the one place where the worse your memory was, the more people liked you”), then he stumbles into the West Side Story remake set (“for the rest of the week it was hard to tell who was a human and who was an actor”).

from How To Split The Check, which leads John to a sad referee convention:

wildlife from How To Make Small Talk:

The other John:


Central Park season 1 (2020)

Oh wow, a comedy musical with cast from Hamilton and Book of Mormon and Kimmy Schmidt and Veronica Mars… good characters and songs… would be the perfect show to watch with Katy except for its singleminded love of poop jokes. Doesn’t bother me, I’m waiting for season two.

Harassing owls:


The Venture Bros. season 1 (2004)

Show is more bizarre than I realized. The title characters are useless, all the drama happening around them, and it steals characters (the Six Million Dollar Man, the Fantastic Four) from other shows at will. Foetus music, a Lydia Lunch reference. Twist: the Venture Bros are killed in an Easy Rider season finale.

Creator Christopher McCulloch voices the Monarch and a Venture, and worked on the The Tick #1, while Tick #2 voices bodyguard Brock Samson. The other Venture is prolific anime voice actor Michael Sinterniklaas, and their dad is James Urbaniak, who shares my birthday and is from New Jersey, so we’re practically family.


Samurai Jack season 1 (2001)

Only after Primal came out did I belatedly realize I was stupid for never watching this. Demon sends samurai into an intergalactic future, what’s not to like. Wasn’t expecting the season to end with Aku telling fairy tales to kids, complete with a reference to The Shining.

Among many online concerts, i attended the quarantine edition of SF Sketchfest, which opened with a montage of famous comedians saying no to Sketchfest. Fred Armisen welcome, Reggie Watts theme song, Eugene Mirman using a flowby during intermission, Triumph vs. Weird Al. Highlights were Jon Hamm’s movie trivia, Kumail vs. Emily, and the Kids in the Hall.

Attempted to watch The Shivering Truth – really sweet puppet animation, shame it’s wasted on so many unfunny jokes. Adam Fuchs did the titles! Also walked out on stand-up specials by Yvonne Orji, Jenny Slate, Eric Andre and Tiffany Haddish. I stayed through A Steven Wright Special (1985)

Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life (2012) has some sweet puns and lots of editing humor.


Nathan Barley (2005)

“It’s bad to have a bad uncle.” Julian Barratt is a pathetic angry guy who works for terrible website Trashbat run by Barley. Dan and his sister Claire room with DJ Nathan Fielder, and all of them discover they’re no better than the dummies they’re mocking. Barley torments a young Ben Whishaw, and Richard Ayoade and Benedict Cumberbatch are hanging around. When all your characters are annoying it’s hard for the show not to end up annoying, but as an intersection of post-Brass Eye Chris Morris, pre-Newswipe Charlie Brooker, and mid-Mighty Boosh everyone else, I was gonna have to watch it.


Charlie Brooker had an early-quarantine special Antiviral Wipe, then the end-of-year Death to 2020. The highlight of both was the Barry Shitpeas quote on OUATIH: “Quentin Cappucino made a new version of that film he does.” The latter special featured some good fake celebrity commentators and websites.