I’ll get to the regularly scheduled links in a bit, but I wanted to lead off with some recommendations from my 2019 media diet (a term I’ve borrowed from Jason Kottke, whose blog always makes for tasty consumption).
I suppose it was inevitable that the 2018 post-apocalyptic horror film A Quiet Place, which was shot on a relatively small budget and subsequently made a boatload of money, would require a sequel. And so it has come to pass that A Quiet Place Part II will open in theaters in March. (Tiny spoiler: There’s more out there than the noise-hating creatures.)
As I watched the trailer I started thinking about (a) the unimaginativeness of the title, which suggests an unimaginative sequel; and (b) how popular the word place is in movie and television titles. And it isn’t just a recent fad: the trend goes back decades.
The wildfires have barely been extinguished here in California, but it’s already word-of-the-year season across the pond, where three prominent dictionaries chose words or phrases with a common theme: climate change, or preventing it. Cambridge Dictionary went first, with upcycling: “the activity of making new furniture, objects, etc. out of old or used things or waste material.” Collins Dictionary chose climate strike: “a protest demanding action on climate change.” And Oxford Dictionaries picked climate emergency from an all-environmental shortlist that included “climate action,” “climate denial,” “eco-anxiety,” “extinction” and “flight shame.”
Let the record show that lexicographer Jane Solomon, recently of Dictionary.com, spotted the trend back in September.
I’ve been watching The Boys on Amazon Prime, and along with enjoying the clever conceit (superheroes as corrupt bad guys controlled by an evil mega-corporation) and the dash of Brit slang and swearing (shufti, dekko, chuffed, lots of casual cunts), I’ve been thinking about the title. The show is based on a graphic-novel series that I’ve never read, and maybe “boys” is more overtly explained there, but on the show we’re left to infer that The Boys are the good-guy squad, even though one of their number is a young woman.
They aren’t the only capital-B Boys trending in popular-culture titles right now. Although less robust than the ongoing Girl/Girls title phenomenon (see my posts from 2015 and from 2018), “Boy/Boys” is still a trendlet worth noting.
The news that Tiny Pretty Things, the 2016 YA novel about ballet students by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton, is being made into a 10-episode Netflix series sent me into a free-association reverie.
“Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars.” – Amazon. The sequel (2017) is titled Shiny Broken Pieces.
One recently created job, however, depends not on technology but on psychology and stagecraft. Intimacy directors—the title appears to have been invented around 2016 by the founders of Intimacy Directors International, although the discipline was developed about 15 years ago—work with theater actors to choreograph “moments of staged intimacy in order to create safe, repeatable, and effective storytelling,” according to IDI’s website. (Their counterparts in television and film are called intimacy coordinators, and play similar roles in “scenes containing intimacy, simulated sex, nudity or high emotional content.”)
I’ve finally gotten around to watching “Unforgotten,” the British detective show, now on Netflix, starring Nicola Walker (whom I liked a lot in “Last Tango in Halifax” and the National Theatre’s brilliant Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). Something about the title jogged my memory: It felt like I’d been seeing a lot of un- titles and names lately. So I did some digging. And I was right.
Last Sunday, at the San Francisco International Film Festival, I saw the world premiere of a fascinating and disturbing documentary, We Believe in Dinosaurs, about the building of the Ark Encounter, a $102 million pseudoscientific tourist attraction in Williamstown, Kentucky. (You can read about the Encounter’s 2016 opening and about Ken Ham, the “creationist” zealot behind the endeavor, here.)
The film doesn’t yet have a distributor, so I can’t tell you where it will play next. What I can tell you is the story of 137 Films, the production company that made We Believe in Dinosaurs. It’s one of the best how-they-got-that-name stories I’ve read, and certainly one of the best numeral-as-name stories.