January 2021 in Media

What are you watching, reading, and listening to these days? Here’s mine:


Last year was a big year for streaming TV, thanks in part to the astoundingly well-timed launch of Disney+. The Mandalorian was effectively required viewing in my circle. More like the Mandatorian, am I right? Personally I really enjoyed the show about a socially distant silent type guy and his developing parental relationship with a non-verbal child. Something struck a chord for whatever reason.

Anyway, that’s over for this year, so here’s what we’re watching now in the Parle household:


Hard to talk about this one without spoilers, so I’ll just say that I absolutely love the mid-century suburban Americana and I unironically enjoy the old style sitcom humour. But if that’s not your cup of tea, give it a couple more episodes and see where it goes.


The fantasy sibling of Futurama is in its third season. Coming from Netflix, it all arrived on the same day, but we’re working through it more slowly so only about half way at this point. Extra points for the addition of Richard Ayoade, but points off for lack of Matt Berry.

Ted Lasso

An American football manager moves to London to manage a floundering Premiership football club. No knowledge of or interest in either sport is required.

We came late to this because it’s on Apple TV+ and we’re not much of an Apple household outside of the Mac (no iPhones or recent iPads). But I got myself one of the new M1 MacBook Pros as soon as they were released and it came with a year’s free subscription. There isn’t support for watching Apple TV+ on a Chromecast yet, but it turns out there’s a PlayStation app.

As many before me have said, Ted Lasso is a perfect show for these times. It’s funny — really funny — but it’s also optimistic.


New films haven’t really been a thing for me this last year. I have been hanging out with friends in a Discord voice channel every Wednesday night since April watching some rubbish we can talk over. Or occasionally something good we can talk over. Most recently was Cyborg 2, the straight to video sequel to Jean Claude Van Damme’s Cyborg, featuring none of the original cast or indeed anything else resembling the original in any way. It does have a young Angelina Jolie in the title role, though she has no redeeming effect on the film whatsoever.

In an attempt to balance the quality level a little, I’ve also been trying to find time to watch all of the Oscar Best Pictures of my lifetime. That means from 1983’s Terms of Endearment onwards. Optimistically I think I can manage about one a fortnight, which means there’ll be at least a couple more on the list before I finish.

I only managed one this month, 1992’s Unforgiven. I’ll say this for it: it’s better than Cyborg 2.


When the whole… everything… started last year I recommended Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven to anyone who thought that reading a book about a global pandemic and its apocalyptic aftermath was a good idea.

I stand by that recommendation, and I can now add Sarah Pinsker’s A Song for a New Day. It’s hard to know whether it was good timing or bad to publish a book about a musician in a future where concerts are illegal because of pandemics and terrorism at the end of 2019. It won the Nebula award for best novel though, and I’m enjoying it.

New Blog

Chances are that as a reader of this blog you probably also follow me on Twitter, Google+ or Facebook (or some combination there-of). So you’re probably already aware that I’ve recently started a new blog, at obviouslynotagolfer.com, where I’m reviewing the 500 greatest films of all time, as well as offering my thoughts on some other films and posting about other film-related topics. But if you weren’t aware, you are now.

I delayed posting anything about the new site here until I had posted enough to be sure that it’s a project that I want to continue with. I’m really happy with how it’s going so far though, and I’m glad to have received some very kind and encouraging feedback both online and off, so I’m comfortable saying that it’s something that will continue for a while.

As usual I also have all sorts of plans to post more here at roryparle.com, but the wise move would be to believe that when you see it.

Bacon search

You know the Kevin Bacon game, where you try to relate a given actor to Kevin Bacon by counting the number of “…was in (such-and-such film) with…” links? Like Keira Knightly was in Pride and Prejudice with Donald Sutherland and Donald Sutherland was in Animal House with Kevin Bacon, so Keira Knightly’s Bacon number is (no more than) two. Bacon himself has a bacon number of zero.

If you liked that game then you might enjoy spending a few minutes playing with a new Google search feature:

Just search for an actor’s name along with the phrase ‘bacon number’ and you get both the number and a sample chain of films linking your actor to Kevin Bacon in that number of steps.

I looked for a few obscure actors who appear in IMDb but who don’t have Bacon number results on Google, but it seems to give decent results for most people you might have heard of. Sadly, no results for Paul Erdős.

The Internship

News of a new Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson movie took me a bit by surprise today:

In the story, Vaughn and Wilson portray two old school salesmen who, finding themselves suddenly unemployed and passed-by in the digital world, try to reinvent themselves by becoming interns at a major tech company.

That brief piece doesn’t reveal which tech company it is, but the set pictures might give a bit of a clue.

That’s not a real Google office. According to this Reddit thread it’s actually a building at Georgia Tech.

Cabin in the Woods

For the last couple of years Eileen and I have been slowly working our way through the complete series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. It had been several years since I watched both shows during their original airing, and Eileen had only seen a few episodes. Now we’re coming toward the end, having finished Buffy and being some way into the last season of Angel (which carried on for another year on its own, after Buffy and co ran out of monsters to fight in Sunnydale). We’ll soon reach the end, and that means we’ll no doubt be feeling feel a certain withdrawal from Joss Whedon’s strange genius.

So it’s a good time for Whedon to be releasing a very cool looking new movie.

No, I’m not talking about The Avengers, although that does appear to hold a certain amount of catsuited charm. I’m talking about Cabin in the Woods, created by Whedon and former Buffy / Angel writer Drew Goddard.

If you watch the trailer you’ll see it initially looks like a fairly standard, cliché young-people-in-the-woods horror movie. When I first watched it I thought I was seeing a preview of an Evil Dead remake. But it never takes long for Whedon to throw convention on its head. By the end of the trailer it starts to look more like a twisted hybrid of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Truman Show.

Which would also like to see.

Cabin in the Woods premiered at South by Southwest at the weekend, and appears to have been received pretty favourably. Meredith Woerner from io9 calls it, “a shining beacon of promise for people that don’t need shaky cam to get their fear fetish rocks off. It’s the thinking geek’s horror film.”

I think it promises to be the best thing to happen to horror movies since Scream.


Apparently the Writer’s Guild of America has nominated Avatar for an award for Best Original Screenplay. This is surprising news. I had no idea Avatar even had a screenplay. I thought James Cameron had just organized a big game of charades and Sam Worthington took three hours to mime Ferngully before anyone in the cast or crew was able to guess it.

Also, for reference, here’s a definition of “original”:

Fresh, different, pioneering

I do not think it means what they think it means.

Greatest Movies: The Data

For several months—possibly almost a year at this point—I’ve been working my way through Empire magazine’s list of the 500 greatest movies of all time. I’ve seen 203 so far, including those that I’d already seen before the list was published.

You won’t be surprised to learn that my tracking of this project involves a spreadsheet full of colours and formulae. There’s even a pie chart depicting the fractions of movies seen by me, Eileen, both of us, or neither of us.


Yes, I have managed to find a girlfriend who’s willing to collaboratively update a spreadsheet of movie-watching history with me. That feeling you’re experiencing is either intense jealousy, or intense pity.

Since I already have a digital copy of the movie list in a form amenable to machine-reading, I thought I’d grab some stats from the list.

Greatest directors

There are 294 directors in the list, if you count directing teams, like Joel and Ethan Coen, as single directors. The majority of these directors, 194 of them, have only a single movie on the list. The other 100 directors account for the remaining 306 movies between them, with 27 directors having at least four movies on the list. Here are those 27, in order from most to least:

Movies Director
11 Steven Spielberg
8 Martin Scorsese
7 Stanley Kubrick
7 Alfred Hitchcock
6 Woody Allen
6 Tim Burton
6 Akira Kurosawa
5 Quentin Tarantino
5 Peter Jackson
5 Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
5 Joel & Ethan Coen
5 Francis Ford Coppola
5 Brian De Palma
5 Billy Wilder
4 William Wyler
4 Sidney Lumet
4 Sam Raimi
4 Robert Zemeckis
4 Rob Reiner
4 Richard Linklater
4 John Huston
4 Jean-Pierre Melville
4 James Cameron
4 Hayao Miyazaki
4 George Lucas
4 David Lynch
4 Christopher Nolan

I’m as big a fan of Steven Spielberg as anyone, and surely no-one would deny that Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Schindler’s List are deserving of their places on this list, but even I wouldn’t claim that a full eleven of Spielberg’s movies should be there. AI: Artificial Intelligence and the fourth Indiana Jones film are conspicuously out of place in that crowd.

Greatest decades

The modern bias in the selection of these movies is very obvious when you look at their distribution over time.

Great Movies by Decade

There are representatives of every decade of film since the 1920s, yet more than a fifth of the movies in the list are from this decade, before it’s even over. No recognition is given to the well established fact that Hollywood reached its peak in the mid-1980s.

However wrong I might think this list is—and I find it hard to imagine anyone ever getting it “right”—I’ve definitely found some real gems while watching the highest-rated movies. Most of the best one’s I’ve discovered, though, were not made in the 00s by Steven Spielberg.

Movies You Missed

Yeah, I’m doing that thing where I link to A-listers again (are popular bloggers still called A-listers?). Jason Kottke linked to a firstshowing.net article on (supposedly) the 19 best movies you didn’t see in 2008.

It’s an interesting list, despite falling down in two crucial respects. First, I have seen one of the movies on the list (and I suspect you’ve seen at least one also, if you’re a movie fan); and second, I’m reasonably confident that these movies didn’t all come out in 2008, at least where I live.

The one film on the list that I did see is Choke, directed by Clark Gregg and based on the book by Chuck “Fight Club” Palahniuk. The article describes it thusly:

A devious and fun exercise in adapting the dark musings of the great Chuck Palahniuk, Choke explores the life of a sex addict trying to deal with a mother who is slipping away. With great performances from Sam Rockwell and Brad William Henke combined with twisted humor that can only come from the mind behind Fight Club, Choke is easily one of the most unique and authentically dark comedies of the year. If you dig deviance, this is one you shouldn’t let pass by.

I agree completely. Choke is one of the best movies I’ve seen in the last few months. It wins on being both funny and dark, and on being quite unlike everything else showing right now.

Despite what most modern commentators would have you believe, there are actually some new movies being made right now that aren’t remakes, sequels, or copies of existing movies. Choke is one of them, and it looks fro the rest of that article that it’s not alone.

There are some films mentioned that I intended to see but haven’t got around to yet. There are others that I specifically decided not to see, and I may or may not change my mind on some of those. There are also quite a few that I never heard of at all, or at least forgot about quickly.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is already on my list to see, and I believe it’s due out here soon (I can’t find a date for it, but I’m pretty certain it hasn’t been and gone.) I’m also going to have to seek out Charlie Bartlett, given Robert Downey Jr.’s hit rate for the rest of the year. Speaking of Kirk Lazarus, there seem to be quite a few movies due out this year that are sure to benefit from his presence.

New Star Trek Trailer

I’ve gone all giddy. There’s a nice new, shiny Star Trek trailer for us all to drool over. It’s still pretty firmly in teaser territory, giving no real hint about the story beyond what’s already known (essentially that it’s an origin story revolving mostly around Kirk and Spock, and the villains are pointy-eared rather than the possibly more expected point-foreheaded).

The extra good news, which I hadn’t noticed before, is that it will be out in time for my birthday.

Babylon A.D.

This film features a man blowing up a robot attack plane with a handgun while doing a back somersault on a snowmobile. It features the line, “We’ll all die when we get to New York. Well, good night.” The main characters travel from Mongolia to Vladivostok via Kazakhstan. These facts should be all you need to know to decide whether or not you want to see it.

Also, drink Coke Zero.