Fringe Festival 2012: Quick Reviews

The Minnesota Fringe Festival is the largest non-juried Fringe Festival in the US. That means you can see just about any kind of theater show pop up at the MN Fringe, with any kind of quality. Pros and first-timers alike show up on stage. Shows might be musicals or harrowing dramas or dance exhibitions or stand-up comedy or completely improvised. Selections range from ordinary to downright weird. The only requirement is that the show fits in a one-hour timeslot.

The MN Fringe runs from August 2nd to August 12th this year. Tickets are generally $12 per show, but you can buy in bulk to maximize your purchasing power. (I am a fan of the 10-show punch cards.) You can easily crank through a half-dozen shows in a day, but that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the full slate of the festival. This last Saturday, for instance, the festival ran 105 completely different shows. That’s just that one day.

I love the MN Fringe because I know a lot of theater nerds, and this is exactly the sort of thing they do well. Every Fringe Festival, I get to watch my friends become firehoses of creativity. I get to wander from stage to stage to see whatever awesome new thing they’ve come up with this year. In addition to that, I often stumble across other performers I’d never seen before. I can easily burn through 20 Fringe tickets every year.

I spent almost this entire previous weekend at the Fringe Festival. What did I see? Well…

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Netflix Follies

I’m endlessly fascinated by Neflix’s elaborate algorithm for guessing what people will enjoy. I noticed a while ago it simply gave up suggesting horror movies to me, because it just couldn’t figure out that I loved horror films, but that I like them to be, y’know, good. I’m also amused that “foreign” is apparently a genre.

But here’s something that cracked me up today:

Netflix calls them “Violent Foreign Crime Movies.”

I think they should call them “OH SHIT MAN POINT A GUN AT THE POSTER BORDER! Movies.”

Even better, if I scroll to the right… THERE’S MORE!

New Geek Life: Where Were We?

Episode 161 of The Geek Life is here! Find out about questionable computer peripheral design and where you can drive a tank!

Photos from Itasca

Differential GrasshopperThis last weekend, I went to Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota. This is the home to Lake Itasca, the lake that marks the origin of the mighty Mississippi River, which flows 2,500 miles away from the park. I waded all the way across the Mississippi in about eight steps.

I also climbed a fire tower. Go, me!

Sadly, I forgot to charge my camera before leaving home, so I don’t have many photos. But here are a few. Enjoy!

What Makes a Good Documentary Film?

About four months ago, I wrote a bit about The Megalist, the completely insane statistical method I use to push myself to watch awesome movies I’d never seen before. After many years of using the tool, I noticed something interesting.

The tool pulls in data from various “Best of [Genre]” lists from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. On most of these lists, the movies don’t move around much. For example, Sunset Boulevard has been in the #1 spot of IMDB’s Film Noir Top 50 for ages. The films below it shuffle around in ranking a little, but mostly they’re the same titles. This is because nobody really makes great Films Noir anymore, so nothing is going to bump White Heat from the list.

The other lists get a little more life from newer movies (i.e., Inception stormed onto some of these lists last year), but still mostly reflect the classics.

Except for the Documentaries lists, from both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. The turnover is HUGE every time I update The Megalist. It’s nearly impossible to make headway against these lists, percentagewise, because new “OMG BEST OF ALL TIME” documentaries are charging onto the lists faster than I can watch them.

I find this fascinating.

I believe this is because most audiences have trouble separating an interesting subject from the actual crafting of a documentary film. I can’t tell you how many “OH WOW WATCH THIS AMAZING DOCUMENTARY BEST I’VE EVER SEEN !!1!11!!!” docs I’ve watched that turned out to be interesting diversions, yet were nonetheless only ordinary pieces of filmmaking.

This is where Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone comes in.

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