Maddd Science

If you ask me, the heist movie is the purest wish-fulfillment film genre. Sure, Superhero movies are the other big example, but they're bogged down with all that spectacle. Heist movies are entirely about a perspective that's unknowable by definition, the successful criminal, which allows audiences to project their own sticking-it-to-the-man fantasies onto the movie without worrying about reality.

Although, like 90 percent of all heist movies wind up going wrong and leave a bittersweet ending for the main characters, so that's a hole in my wish-fulfillment argument. Look, writing email newsletter intros is hard. Heist movies are my fave. Here's a list of them.

The 25 Best Heist Movies of All Time
Will Leitch and Tim Grierson, Vulture

Our choices span several decades and aren’t all in English — most are thrillers, although a few are comedies. In some, our anti-heroes prevail — other times, everything goes terribly wrong. But what connects them all is that primal rush of landing the big score. Don’t try any of this at home.

The Vulture article has a lot of interesting entries... I'm kind of shocked I'd never heard of a Bill Murray clown heist movie that has 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. But if you want a second opinion — why on earth was Baby Driver on that list but not Sneakers??? — then try reading the comments on this Metafilter thread.

Here's something else on the connection between Ocean's and superhero movies:

The enduring appeal of the Ocean’s movies, explained
Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

Certainly the characters in the Ocean’s films aren’t literal superheroes. But Danny Ocean’s gang of thieves aren’t all that far off either.
Both the 1960 and 2001 versions, for instance, spend a lot of time (half the film, for the 1960 version) assembling the team — a classic move in superhero supergroup movies — and naming each of their individual strengths that make them a vital part of the team.

You should of course educate yourself on caper movie tropes with TV Tropes. Here's the main page and here's my favorite heist trope:

Double Caper
TV Tropes

A Double Caper is a plot that takes the following form: 1. The protagonists are hired for The Caper.
2. After pulling it off, they learn that they were hired under false pretenses—they don't get paid, or their employer isn't who they thought, or the justification they were given for the theft turns out to be a lie. 3. They then pull another iteration of The Caper on their original employer, for vengeance and/or to get the stolen goods back to their rightful owner.
This is often used as a way to have a plot based on The Caper that has some degree of moral justifiability. It also provides a built-in structure for Up to Eleven in the execution of Caper #2.

This next article follows up on one from last week's newsletter: Whether it's better to evolve franchises beyond their sexist/racist pasts or to just create new franchises. The answer's still "both," but this article definitely covers what movies are getting wrong about the latter.
The Trouble With Hollywood’s Gender Flips
Amanda Hess, The New York Times

As much as these gender-swapped films free women from old Hollywood expectations, they box them into a new one: Their female protagonists must be admirable. No such requirement was placed on the characters of Mr. Dangerfield or Mr. Murray, who gained admiration from audiences through their thorough commitment to offending. For women, the demand often manifests itself as typically feminine behavior — acting nice, and looking it. In “Life of the Party,” Ms. McCarthy gets a makeover; in “Ocean’s 8,” the female oddballs slip into gowns to strut down the steps of the Met. And of course, the women ought to be good to other women.

The kids are writing school shooting fiction
Aja Romano, Vox

Wattpad’s relative obscurity probably has something to do with its main demographic of teens and preteens. But lately, the kids on Wattpad are contributing, in their own way, to a very mainstream national conversation — by churning out stories about school shootings.

What if Star Wars never happened?
Kevin Lincoln, Polygon

1977 comes and goes. Without Star Wars dominating screens, both William Friedkin’s Sorcerer and Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York gain enough of a foothold to become respectable hits. Buoyed by a more positive reception of Sorcerer, Friedkin receives financing to make an adaptation of Born on the Fourth of July, and Al Pacino wins an Oscar for his performance as Ron Kovic. Scorsese never hits rock bottom, which means he never deigns to adapt a book he has no interest in, Raging Bull; instead, with Marlon Brando available, he finally attempts to make a film based on the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre. But Brando’s a disaster, and the movie goes way over-budget and tanks.

Hi to the 80 new subscribers I got from this tweet featuring Michael Whelan's iconic Foundation triptych... you're all, uh, going to be kinda disappointed with this next article that inspired that art choice. Yes, you can unsubscribe, I don't take it personally.

This Tumblr post unpacking why the Foundation Series and Robert Heinlein are dead fandoms
Vintage Geek Culture, Tumblr

If there’s one path to being a fan, then there’s one core canon of key texts, things “everybody has to read.” That’s what having a unified fan culture does, it says “you have to read this.” Put this at the core of your identity. Just like groups into certain genres of music identify the key albums and songs to their identity that everyone in the group has to know. And that’s why we had Foundation and Heinlein at the center of scifi fandom for decades.

Hey, at least the 350 likes I got on that tweet prove that Foundation fandom hasn't died yet.

Side note: That Tumblr just in the past 24 hours (of the time I'm writing this) has written a post about 70s-era furry fandoms and a post about why the most hated Avenger needs a retrospective. I'm an occasional pop culture blogger, but I'm blown away by this productivity.

Can Horror Movies Be Prestigious?
Jane Hu, The Ringer

Is there something aesthetically distinct about “elevated horror” that sets it apart from all other iterations? Or does any horror film become automatically prestigious when it enters the mainstream by way of critical acclaim? If we listen to Carol Clover, the feminist film scholar who essentially legitimized horror films as an object of academic study, established highbrow culture is perpetually appropriating the radical and messy aspects of the lowbrow.

How 'Hereditary' Flips Steven Spielberg's Trademark Shot
Jacob Oller, The Hollywood Reporter

In Hereditary, Aster uses Spielberg face to create tension where Spielberg offers release. The latter director's characters are almost always static, with the camera rolling toward them. Aster flips the traditional orientation of horror movie movement; instead of showing someone walking away from the camera toward an unknown evil that’s behind a door or around a corner, Aster focuses on the faces of stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro, showing them walking toward the camera and unseen terrors. They react to the horror like Spielberg’s characters respond to wonder, their eyes growing wide, mouths barely holding back a scream, focus never deviating from the object of their gaze. All of this happens before the film actually cuts to the unnerving reveal.

Note: Sorry for skipping a week there... got this email tangled up with Tinyletter's abuse prevention system.

Next Week on Maddd Science: Ancient Astronaut "Theory"

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Header image: "Mind defenses. They are lethal," by Daniel Williams.

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