the candler blog

How to Watch (Almost) All of the Oscar-Nominated Films Before the 86th Academy Awards

Movies

The awards season trudges on, but the end is near. This morning the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed the nominees for the 86th Academy Awards. Forty-three features and fifteen shorts are up for Oscars this year.

So far I’ve only seen ten of the nominated feature films, so I’ve got my work cut out for me if I want to catch up before the telecast on March 2nd.1 I use all manner of little hacks to figure out which films I can see and when. This year I thought I’d share my little master list.

Below you will find details on all forty-three nominated features, including links for where you can watch them right now. If you’d like to track your progress (as I do), I’ve also made a Letterboxd list you can subscribe to (“like” in the vernacular) or clone.

The list is in alphabetical order and lacks both nomination counts and categories. All opening dates and availability are for the US based on current information. If you need that info I suggest checking out The Dissolve’s coverage. Each title links to Letterboxd for more information. All DVD and Blu-ray links go to Amazon; shopping with any of the iTunes or Amazon Instant Video links helps support the candler blog; I thank you in advance.

I’ve included DVD and Blu-ray availability not just for purchasing, but for readers who live near a decent video store. Here in Austin we are spoiled by both Vulcan Video and I Luv Video. Support your local video store if you’ve got one.

Enough preamble. Here are all of this year’s feature films up for at least one Academy Award and how to watch them.

2014 Oscar Nominated Feature Films

Viewing Calendar

Streaming on Netflix today:

Available on disc or digital today:

  • 20 Feet From Stardom
  • All is Lost
  • Before Midnight
  • The Croods
  • Despicable Me 2
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Iron Man 3
  • The Lone Ranger
  • Prisoners
  • Star Trek Into Darkness

Now in theaters:

  • 12 Years A Slave
  • American Hustle
  • August: Osage County
  • The Book Thief
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Frozen
  • Gravity
  • The Great Beauty
  • Her
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • The Invisible Woman
  • Lone Survivor
  • Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • The Wolf Of Wall Street

Opening soon:

  • The Wind Rises, February 20, 2014
  • Omar, February 21, 2014 (Limited)
  • Ernest & Celestine, March 14, 2014 (Limited)
  • The Missing Picture, March 19, 2014 (Limited)

Coming to disc or digital soon:

  • Blue Jasmine, January 21, 2014
  • Captain Phillips, January 21, 2014
  • Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, January 24, 2014
  • The Broken Circle Breakdown, March 11, 2014 (iTunes, February 4, 2014)
  • Dallas Buyers Club, February 4, 2014
  • All Is Lost, February 11, 2014
  • Gravity, February 25, 2014
  • The Great Beauty, March 25, 2013 (iTunes, February 25, 2014)
  • Frozen, March 18, 2014
  • The Grandmaster, March 4, 2014
  • Ernest & Celestine, June 10, 2014

Unavailable in the near future:

  • Alone Yet Not Alone
  1. Only one film from my top ten list, Nebraska, is up for anything. Figures.

When I Met Brett

Technology, Writing

Yesterday Brett Terpstra officially announced that he quit his job and is heading out on his own as an independent writer, developer and man about the web. He is asking for your support in this new endeavor. Go thank Brett with kind words, a cup of coffee or, hell, a new Mac Pro if you can swing it. Or go buy Marked 2, his excellent Markdown preview (and so much more) app.

I want to tell just a small story about Brett.

Back in May of 2012 I noticed on Twitter that Brett was in New York City for a work thing. I told him I was around if he had time to kill and he obliged. We set a time and place down in the East Village to meet.

This was after Fountain for Marked. By then I had thought of Brett as an “Internet friend,” which is to say someone I could tweet at who might tweet back but probably wouldn’t listen to my life story over whiskey.

When I met Brett he was with a work friend. Not knowing what’s good they told me to pick a place we could sit and have a drink. I took them to McSorley’s Old Ale House, something of a tourist trap with sawdust on the floor that only serves small glasses of their house beer. It was a bit of a mistake on my part but we got a round and got to talking.

Text editors, apps, code, bloggers; we covered it all. I remember not knowing, at the time, whether or not Macdrifter’s identity was public. It seems so long ago now; Gabe Weatherhead has since become another of my Internet friends. Eventually we changed venues to one of my favorite bars where the conversation continued over a few more drinks.

On our walk back the time came for us to split ways. I was headed to the subway, Brett and his co-worker were headed back to their hotel. When it came time to say goodbye, I offered the usual pleasantries. “Nice to finally meet you” and “great hanging out” and so forth.

Brett offered the same and one more. I’d like to say I’ll never forget what Brett told me but the truth is I don’t recall his exact words, just the sentiment. He said something along the lines of: “I like what you do. So keep on doing it.” When he said it I could tell that he had heard this advice before and it had impacted him. Brett wasn’t complementing me, he was encouraging me.

I tell this now to show what kind of a person Brett Terpstra is. Even the breadth of his free projects don’t quite get to what a giving person he is. On his podcast he invites listeners to come on as guests; on his site he points readers to numerous unknown apps and developers; on Twitter he is always willing to lend a helping hand, even if only to recommend a great whiskey. And in private he’s there with a kind word to help you on your way, even if you take him to one of the crappiest bars in New York.

Brett is a real mensch who has given so much to so many. Consider sending something back his way.

Best of luck, Brett. And thanks for everything.

Install Cloud-to-Butt for Reliable Laughs All Year Long

Technology

It’s a new year. You deserve a laugh, don’t you?

Last year I installed the “Cloud-to-Butt” Safari extension, based on the original Chrome extension by Steven Frank (of Panic fame). It’s pretty good for a chuckle. Here’s how Steven describes it:

Chrome extension that replaces occurrences of ‘the cloud’ with ‘my butt’

Surf the web, see “my butt” and laugh. That’s it.

There are extensions for Opera and Firefox as well. Be sure to check out the Flickr gallery, too.

I think my personal favorite1 grab is this one of a Frank Chimero blog post last year:

Happy New Year. And you’re welcome.

  1. Besides my own blog post, “Mountain Lion Paves the Way for Final Cut in [my Butt].” Install the extension and read it.

Top Ten Films (I’ve Seen) of 2013

Movies

Heading into to December I felt like I had barely seen any films this year. This was technically true. I used to do sixty to seventy new release films a year and I think I was at around thirty-nine when November ended.

Between Netflix, HBO GO and Blu-rays from Vulcan Video I made a concerted effort to close the gap through December.

As a quick workflow overview: I used Mike D’Angelo’s indispensible NYC master list to determine which films opened this past year and loaded up my Letterboxd watchlist.1 I also copied D’Angelo’s complete list into OmniOutliner to track which films I had seen and when; this came in handy organizing the below list.

As it stands now I have seen fifty-one films that opened in NYC in 2013 and two television movies that I think should count:2 Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra and Greg Mottola’s Clear History. There are some big titles I haven’t seen yet that I suspect would otherwise make their way onto my top ten list, like The Wolf of Wall Street and Inside Llewyn Davis, but the year is up.

So here it is, my top ten films of 2013.

1. Nebraska, Alexander Payne

Payne may be one of my favorite working comedy directors. His camera is patient and wide, allowing his actors generous breathing room for letting the dark, painful humor of life play out. Will Forte is the big surprise here: he plays an amazing straight man.

I love this movie.

2. Computer Chess, Andrew Bujalski

Computer Chess is such a brilliant, beautiful, weird little film. I feel like I shouldn’t need to say anything more than “Bujalski” to get you to see it, but his films fly deep under the radar for most audiences which is a shame. I think he may be the most exciting American director to watch today. When I interviewed him in 2009, Bujalski had shot all of his movies on film:

If you’re trying to get video to look exactly like film, it’s a silly thing to do. You might as well just go and shoot on film anyway if you’re using the super high-end stuff.

Computer Chess was shot on a Sony AVC-3260 and it looks gorgeous.

3. Dealin’ With Idiots, Jeff Garlin

Jeff Garlin laughing incredulously at things and talking in a high-pitched voice is my hero.

Dealin’ With Idiots is a showcase for comic performers like Richard Kind, J.B. Smoove and Gina Gershon. The premise is thin (Garlin’s Max Morris decides to interview other parents on his son’s little league baseball team for a potential film project) but the jokes are honest and never let up. I haven’t laughed this hard this consistently at a film in a long time. And it all comes together in the end in a way that just crushed me. Truly.

4. Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach

Greta Gerwig plays an incredible shlemiel, which is good because Baumbach really puts her character, Frances, through the ringer. It’s starting to get annoying how good he is at composing these painful comedies about characters coming to terms with responsible adulthood.

5. Stoker, Park Chan-wook

A truly creepy and patient film. Park wisely lets the film unfold in emotional, not temporal, order. Mia Wasikowska proves to be a formidable talent. Stoker can be uncomfortable at times but remember: it’s horror. Nice to be reminded that not everything in the genre relies on creatures jumping out of the shadows and killers sidling up in mirrors.

6. This Is the End, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen

Easily one of the funniest films of the year. Rogen and Goldberg put together an oddly affecting film that is also a stoner apocalypse supernatural popcorn flick. Not easily pulled off.

7. The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola

It’s voyeurism all the way down in The Bling Ring. To watch it is to participate in the modern obsession with the self(-ie). At first we follow the young thieves on their celebrity exploits but eventually we learn that it is we, via Coppola’s camera, who are looking in on the lives of others and leering.

It would be foolish to think this is a film about a specific generation’s proclivities toward mimesis; it’s about us, the audience, no matter the age.

8. This Is Martin Bonner, Chad Hartigan

A great character piece that dives deep into the lives of two men trying to start their lives over. Paul Eenhoorn and Richmond Arquette give nuanced performances that really show a love for the men they portray. Hartigan is clearly capable of great comedic setups, but his restraint pays off tenfold in This Is Martin Bonner.

9. Prince Avalanche, David Gordon Green

David Gordon Green’s progression as a filmmaker continues to be astounding to watch. I think it’s too easy to see his stoner comedies (Pineapple Express, Your Highness) as stumbling blocks and equally myopic to view Prince Avalanche as a return to form (like his quieter films George Washington or All the Real Girls). Instead this fantastical Texas tale feels like a culmination of Green’s craft. And Paul Rudd shows off some serious chops too.

10. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet, Alain Resnais

Theater. Reality. Cinema. Memory. These are just a few of the themes that come to mind while watching Alain Resnais’ You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet, about a group of actors convening to mourn the death of a playwright. Give yourself over to this one and you will be rewarded.

  1. I did a decent job of logging everything I watched this year on Letterboxd; my reward is a comprehensive Year in Review. It’s becoming one of my most visited sites.

  2. But don’t; why have arbitrary rules if you can’t enforce them?

Wearables Shmearables

Link, Technology

Marco Arment:

We already have extremely powerful devices that we’re barely using the potential of — we don’t need to divide our attention and resources further to add new device categories to our lives that aren’t massively better in normal use than what we already have.

For the most part I agree,1 but I do think we are approaching the full potential of handheld devices.

The next logical step is more screens in more places. Look at automobile telematics, for example. Even that 60s-futuristic name, “telematics,” stinks. Auto-makers simply cannot build a dashboard that’s half-good, which is the reason iOS in the Car exists (or almost exists).

A blank screen whose interface is driven by the device you bring with you. More screens like that and we’ll really see what this tech can do.

  1. I don’t think I need a face-computer.

Why David Poland Isn’t Going To Sundance This Year

Link, Movies

David Poland:

I have asked virtually nothing of Sundance in all of these years, except for a press badge worn by me and thousands of other journalists. And perhaps that’s the problem. I haven’t buddied up to the right people, hung out at parties with the programmers, or sponsored something. But that is not my way. I have no disrespect for those who cover festivals this way… but all-in-all, I would rather see another movie than spend a couple of hours having dinner (at least before Day 6 or 7).

Festival access is a dark art that working your ass off to cover movies isn’t a part of. Sucks.

Don’t Support Information Architects UPDATED

Apps, Technology, Writing

Last week Information Architects (iA) released Writer Pro, a follow-up to the company’s popular text editor, iA Writer. By far, their most heavily touted new feature is Syntax Control. Oliver Reichenstein, iA’s director, promised in a blog post to vigorously protect this new feature:

Syntax Control is a solid innovation, one we’ve been working on for more than four years. As with every serious design, once you have seen how it works, you can figure out cheap ways to copy it. We’ve trademarked and obtained patent pending for Syntax Control. If you want it in your text editor, you can get a license from us. It’s going to be a fair deal.

I’ve read this paragraph probably a dozen times now and I can think of no better word to describe it than “smarmy.” It’s not just the bravado in Reichenstein’s insistence that Syntax Control is such a solid innovation, it’s the pre-emptive accusation that any similar feature in an app would be “cheap.” This isn’t just an insult, it’s a threat.

When I hand my money over to a developer, I want to at least feel like I’m the reason their product exists, that it otherwise wouldn’t but for my interest, support and cash. Goading other developers into forking over licensing fees undercuts that feeling for me. While the full patent application isn’t available yet, Reichenstein tweeted an image that has “Method of editing text in a text editor” listed as the “Title of Invention.” That sounds precisely like the sort of broad software patent that discourages innovation.

But then there’s Syntax Control itself. I can’t figure out what, exactly, the innovation is. Here’s how iA describes Syntax Control on their product page:

Syntax Control dims everything but the chosen syntax, helping you focus, and control your writing style.

On the Writer Pro support forums, Oli Studholme speaks for iA in responding to early adopters unhappy with the app (emphasis not mine):

While we understand Writer Pro is not for everyone, I’m very surprised to hear you say it does “nothing new”. Regardless of your thoughts on Workflow, Syntax Control is not available in any other program, period.

But what about Agile Tortoise’s Phraseology? That two year-old app has a feature called “Inspect” that offers comprehensive statistics about your document like word count and readability. There is also a parts of speech analysis.

Had Agile Tortoise threatened action against anyone who would try to copy Phraseology’s Inspect view, would we even have Writer Pro’s Syntax Control?

All of this leads me to the conclusion that I should stop supporting Information Architects and I suggest you do the same. I bought iA Writer for the Mac and iOS long ago, but from here on out, unless Reichenstein and company do an about face, I won’t be giving them a dime. If you like the typefaces they include with their apps, go buy them from Bold Monday and Klim Type Foundry. If you need a text editor there are plenty of others available from less threatening developers. Here are some ideas:1

There is no need to support a smarmy, litigious operation like Information Architects. There is so much innovation coming out of other developers. Now get writing.2

Further reading: Gabe Weatherhead nails it, Ben Brooks offers some insight, The Soulmen whip up a demo showing how simple it is to recreate Syntax Control and Verge forum poster “Weswanders” does the hard work of questioning iA’s claims that The Verge sidestepped in this piece.

UPDATED December 26, 2013: This evening, after a public conversation with David Heinemeier Hansson, iA’s official Twitter account (managed by Oliver Reichenstein) tweeted the following:

Sounds good to me. I look forward to reading Reichenstein’s side of this.

  1. Affiliate links. I thank you in advance.

  2. A brief postscript to all of this because I don’t want to write a separate piece.

    I wish both the press beta and the negative review were as prevalent in the software world as they are in the film world. Most movies, except for the real stinkers, are shown to the press ahead of time with the full knowledge that many of them won’t like what they see. And they’re going to tell people so.

    The iA forums and iTunes reviews are lousy with people crying foul because Writer Pro wasn’t what they were expecting. I wonder if a launch day Macstories longread on the specifics of what the app can and can’t do wouldn’t have changed Writer Pro’s early sales. Come to think of it, I don’t think iA even offered a press beta.

    Remember: it’s the stinkers that don’t screen early for the critics.

Jason Kottke on the Death of the Blog

Link, Technology, Writing

Jason Kottke at Nieman Journalism Lab:

Instead of blogging, people are posting to Tumblr, tweeting, pinning things to their board, posting to Reddit, Snapchatting, updating Facebook statuses, Instagramming, and publishing on Medium.

In this sentence I think Jason gets closest to expressing what Medium is to those who don’t get it.

He closes with the same warning I offer whenever I talk about Medium (emphasis mine):

Over the past 16 years, the blog format has evolved, had social grafted onto it, and mutated into Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and those new species have now taken over. No biggie, that’s how technology and culture work. If you want something to cry about, cry about the decline of the open web, the death of which would be a huge blow for us all. But perhaps that’s a topic better left for 2015.

Further reading: some added commentary on kottke.org.

Load Custom Fonts on iOS in Daedalus Touch

Apps, Technology, Writing

The Soulmen, developers of Ulysses III and Daedalus Touch, never fail to impress. They just updated Daedalus, the universal iOS text editor, to 1.7 and brought a slew of goodies to it. The headlining features:

  • Daedalus Touch is now free with In-App Purchase
    • Users who paid for the app in the past will get all features unlocked on download
    • $2.99 gets you all of the features or you can piecemeal only what you need for $0.99 apiece
  • The app requires iOS 7 and has been redesigned for the current OS as well
  • Updated to the latest TextExpander1 SDK
  • New support for x-callback-url
  • The ability to customize fonts

I could go on and on about this app, but I want to just focus on the custom font selections as this is something that wasn’t immediately clear to me and seems revolutionary on iOS.

Daedalus Touch has always had three font choices: Classic, Modern and Mono. In previous iterations of the app The Soulmen bundled custom fonts with the app. Each sheet (or document) features a title line in a large, headline-style typeface above the body text.

In 1.7 Daedalus retains the names of the old themes but now relies solely on built-in iOS fonts: Cochin, Helvetica Neue and Menlo. Below the font options there is a toggle labeled “Custom.” Flip it and you now have the option of setting both the title and the body text to any iOS system font.

Now, this is cool, but it’s not revolutionary for an iOS text app to allow you access to the system font library. While I was enjoying myself flipping through different theme options, I noticed a tweet from the Daedalus twitter account.

Immediately I dropped a font into my Dropbox folder on my Mac and loaded Dropbox on my iPhone. I downloaded the font and used Dropbox’s share button to get to the “Open in…” dialog. Tap Daedalus and it will open up. At first it will be unclear that anything happened. Go back into the custom fonts selection menu and there, at the top of the list, will be your font.

Even better, as promised you can zip up all the weights of a font and open it in Daedalus. All of the weights will be available and organized.

iOS ships with a wide array of fonts that should keep most users happy, but it’s extremely nice to be able to load any font I want to write with. I loaded up my preferred monospaced fonts (and favorite of the dancing Couriers), Courier Prime and Pitch, both of which look gorgeous in Daedalus.

Many of the writing apps I love ship with custom fonts, some of which I love and wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.2 However, the ability to load your own fonts is a huge win from a consumer perspective. So many apps differentiate themselves on an array of features; I’d rather not have to choose app A solely because it has a font that app B doesn’t.

One final thought on the matter. Plain text editing is one thing, but imagine being able to load custom fonts in a layout app like Keynote or Pages or OmniGraffle. I really hope The Soulmen share this code and make iOS an even more customizable landscape.

Daedalus Touch is free with In-App Purchase in the App Store. It’s a great syncing companion to Ulysses III, which is $44.99 in the Mac App Store.

  1. This is the first of a few affiliate links in this piece. If you purchase apps with these links you support the candler blog. I thank you in advance.

  2. See the new Writer Pro’s use of Nitti and Tiempos.

Jim DeRogatis on R. Kelly and the Critic as Journalist

Journalism, Link, Music

R. Kelly’s sexual predation has been underreported for over a decade. Jim DeRogatis, in conversation with Jessica Hopper at The Village Voice, explains how he approached the story from the beginning and why Kelly’s sins are not as easily forgivable as much of the music world would have you believe.

This bit is important:

A lot of people who are critics are fans and don’t come with any academic background, with any journalistic background, research background. Now, nobody knows everything, and far be it from me to say you’ve got to be a journalist or you have to have studied critical theory in the academy. Part of what we do is journalistic. Get the names right, get the dates right, get the facts right. Sometimes, on a very rare number of stories, there’s a deeper level of reporting required.

And later:

You may not know how to report, but you should know how to read.