Why GLASS ONION soars while KALEIDOSCOPE goes splat

These two shows both have a great leading actor, talented supporting case, and an interesting mystery/thriller premise.

So why did Daniel Crag & Co. entertain us so well with a sequel better than the original–and why did Giancarlo Esposito & Friends fail to satisfy?

And yes, I’m going to spoil the hell out of one of them, but not the other, because you should still go watch Daniel Craig having the most fun in his acting life.

First up: GLASS ONION.

This movie is a disguised mystery, with the real murder not revealed until halfway through the movie after ANOTHER murder to cover help the first.

The movie then starts over from another POV, and the clues start to make sense.

What GLASS ONION does so well is give the audience the emotion it wants in surprising ways.

And aside from the first murder victim, every character gets basically what the deserve, especially the villain.

GLASS ONION also happily passes my acid test: would I watch this movie again? YES.

All the ways KALEIDOSCOPE crashes and burns

Here’s the trailer if you are not familiar.

So the premise is interesting, and the episodes are shown to you in random order–except the end, where you watch the characters six months after the heist, then see the heist itself.

The ending is where it all falls apart.

I enjoyed the episodes leading up to the final two. Great acting with interesting, flawed characters put into tough situations.

Here’s why the ending kills a promising start: This is a heist movie, where the audience expects the heist go wrong before it surprisingly goes right due to the cleverness of the gang. OCEANS 11 is a great example of the genre.

Instead, our main character, Leo, doesn’t pull off the heist. They break into the impossible vault and think they stole the money only to get fooled. He fails, though he does successfully set up his rival for a long prison term. But that rival gives a disgruntled gang member, Bob, the info he needs to track down Leo and his bent lawyer girlfriend. She gets killed, then Leo is later shot in the back.

The ending is sending a message that greed doesn’t pay, and criminals end up dead or in prison.

Except it’s the wrong genre and setup for that kind of ending. That’s not a heist movie where the main character is the leader of the gang pulling off the job. Stories with this ending and message rightfully have the POV of law enforcement.

It’s true that this sort of ending happens in BREAKING BAD, with Walter White dying at the end. But he’s the villain of his own story, and his downfall is deserved. Walter White chose to go down a bad path that led to the destruction of his family and the death of dozens and dozens of people.

Leo is a sympathetic character, not a killer. Despite the mistakes of his criminal past, he’s kind to his team and his daughter.

So the second-to-last episode loses the audience and kills any desire to see how the heist fails.

It wouldn’t be hard to fix this. A heist story needs to end with a successful heist, and switching the bearer bonds is a neat trick.

Let the bent lawyer with a gun fetish win her gunfight with Bob’s thug, and let Leo live to push his granddaughter around in a stroller.

Most importantly, make the heist in this heist story truly work. Instead of Leo’s daughter switching the bonds to benefit the crooked Triplet billionaires, swap the bonds and wheel them out to share the spoils with Leo and the surviving gang, except for Bob, because screw Bob.

Now we have a heist story about a real heist, one that worked, that gives the audience the emotion it expects in an unexpected way.

The path

One if my favorite hiking trails. Long, straight sections like this that are always beautiful, four seasons a year.

My busy season (session) is over, and the pandemic’s end is in sight. I’ll post more soon and hope to catch up with all of you.

I hope you are recovering from the awfulness of covid and 2020.

And I hope that 2021 is a better, smoother path for you.

The best pro-Biden ads of 2020

Listen: I’ve worked as a reporter or speechwriter since forever, and yes, there are receipts: I have a Bob Kerrey bumper sticker.

So yeah, it’s fair to say I’ve seen 5.93 metric tons of campaign ads.

And yes, 99 percent of them are typically unremarkable. Part of that is because political consultants bought into the “only negative ads work!” idea and ran with it all the way to crazy town.

This meant seeing piles of black-and-white ads with scary music and narrators trying to make me think Candidate A would outlaw ice cream and turn my house into a brothel for North Korean soldiers.

This year is an exception, at least on the Biden side, with Trump busy trying to outdo the infamous Demon Sheep ad. Yes, I am not making that up. There really is a Demon Sheep ad that Carly spent real cash to create and run in California, which is not exactly a cheap media market.

Hurray for positive ads in 2020

There’s some new research that positive ads work, thank God.

Biden has run a ton of them this year.

The Lincoln Project is known for scathing, hilarious ads, but they’ve also run impressive positive ones.

Many of these are long-form, which is also a nice switch. I’ve been in the gym for an hour in the morning during presidential years when every single ad was political and they were all Black-and-White Scary Music Nonsense.

Here are my favorites of 2020, with most of these set to music.

For Your Boys

Sam Elliot FTW

One Opportunity

America the Beautiful


The Change


Did I miss your favorite ad? There have been many this year. Hit me in the comments.

A little moment of wonder and joy in the hellscape of 2020

It’s crazy rare to see one of these Vorpal Flying Green Elves up here in the temperate rain forest where Bigfoot roams alongside mountain lions and bears.

This little warrior was totally chill about me taking photos and shooting film. Like, “Oh, will this be a documentary, then? Carry on.”

I am curious whether the windstorm brought him north, or if this is just one more Sign of the Apocalypse, seeing how 2020 just needs zombies or an asteroid hitting LA to top off the year.

There is one mystery: look close and there’s some kind of symbol on both arms/chest. Egg sack? Superhero symbol? I HAVE NO CLUE. Tell me if you have heard the prophecy and recognize the signs

Oregon Man gives Florida Man serious competition by pulling Nerf crossbow on cops

Yeah, that’s not a typo. This real criminal genius thought it was a good idea to bring a Nerf toy to a gunfight.

And yes, police say he first pulled out a tire iron, then a small ax. However, what criminal in good standing thinks the natural progression goes like this?

“First, Imma snag this improvised, short-range weapon meant to loosen lug nuts. Then I’m going even shorter range with a hatchet. And now, for the grand finale, we’re doing full shock-and-awe on the po-po by whipping out this Nerf crossbow. They’ll never take me alive, Cletus–never.”

According to the KOMO story, based on police reports, the whole thing started with this man road-raging and/or stalking two teenage girls in an SUV while he was driving his pickup. Five bucks says that pickup features at least two of the following: (a) various shades of bondo, (b) Bud Light cans littering the bed, (c) a MAGA sticker, and maybe (d) one of those chrome pipes so this tough guy can roll coal.

The girls called 911 and the cops found both vehicles. Any criminal with working brain cells, at this point, would find another place to be or another illegal scheme to pursue. You know, drive off to cook some meth, rob a 7-Eleven while dressed as a trailer-park ninja (this has happened, numerous times), or tie a chain around an ATM and try to yank it out with your pickup truck.

This man didn’t stop. He drove on the wrong side of the road, rammed police cars, went through a chainlink fence. You know, all the things. Only then did he cap this string of Good Decisions by seeing armed police closing in and reaching for that Nerf crossbow.

My only journalistic question is this: What KIND of Nerf crossbow? For they are legion.

The only way to put a cherry on top of this story is to find out that last detail, and to pray to Florida Man that the specific brand of Nerf crossbow turns out to be this one.