Is it possible to locate a man given only his photograph and first name? The answer is YES!
In 2006, UK-based game company Mind Candy tested the theory of six degrees of separation as part of an Alternate Reality Game (ARG). They gave us a photograph of a man, a name, and the Japanese characters that translate to “Find me”.
In 2020, thanks to the power of community, that person has been found!
Thank you everyone who helped participate in the quest to find Satoshi!
Puzzle #256 was a silver card titled “Billion to One”. It features a man’s photograph and the Japanese characters 私を 見つけなさい (watashi o mitsuke nasai, “find me”). A Perplex City hint line gave the clue, “My name is Satoshi.”
The FindSatoshi.com website was started in November 2006 by Laura E. Hall as a way to consolidate information about the search for Satoshi for quick sharing. (There were also several other sites by enthusiastic community members, as we all were eager to solve this puzzle!)
Laura was coincidentally near Kaysersberg in December 2007 for a work trip and was able to visit the town, standing on the same spot that Satoshi stood on for his selfie.
Mind Candy confirmed additional information about the hunt:
First, Satoshi had willingly agreed to participate in the game.
Second, he had to be contacted directly. If he saw the site, he wouldn’t reach out.
Third, he had been told a password, which he would reveal to whoever contacted him.
How Satoshi Was Found
Over the years, Laura received many emails and tips about Satoshi’s identity, but none resulted in a connection. The trail was cold, with occasional surges of interest when people found the site for the first time and shared it.
Further searching revealed more photographs of this man.
His freckles match up exactly! But we still had to get in touch with him directly—remember, he wouldn’t contact us, even if he saw the site.
His email was on his company website, so with the help of a friend in Japan, Laura composed an email in English and Japanese. And a day later, she received a reply confirming that this was indeed “our” Satoshi! (She has asked permission to share the text of the email, and will post here if it is granted.)
The creator of the puzzle, a former employer of Mind Candy, then confirmed that it was correct.
14 years after the hunt began, Satoshi has been found!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is this related to Bitcoin?
A: No. Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym used by the person who created Bitcoin, but it’s not the same Satoshi.
Q: Did Satoshi consent to the search?
A: Yes, this was confirmed by Mind Candy at the start of the search:
“Satoshi has agreed to appear on this card and, of course, knows you’re looking for him. He isn’t hiding, but he isn’t looking for you either. If you track him down, he will happily provide you with the information required to solve this card, and will also be able to prove his identity as The Real Satoshi – you don’t need to coerce or harass him into co-operating, you just need to find him. Satoshi has no connection with any employee of Mind Candy or Mind Candy’s business partners – pursuing them for information will be of no use. Finally, Satoshi possesses no information regarding the location of Perplex City’s $200,000 Cube, so you needn’t interrogate him about that either! As always with Perplex City, you needn’t (and mustn’t) break the law – or be mean! – in the course of your adventures. With all that said. good hunting, one and all….”
Q: Should I contact Satoshi?
A: Please don’t! His agreement to participate in the game was limited to this one puzzle, and that is now complete. We are very grateful to him for allowing Mind Candy to use his image for the puzzle!
This wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of thousands of people. Everyone who read about the project, shared it with a friend, and chatted about it online made this possible.
Feature Video games are the new Hollywood, complete with celebrities and hyped blockbusters like Cyberpunk 2077. In 2019, they made half as much again as the movie sector’s paltry $101bn. You know who won’t see much of that dough? Desktop Linux games developers.
Around the world, a committed community of independent gaming devs happily churns out games for Linux on the desktop. They’re the gaming world’s niche auteurs.
One of them is Ciprian Bacioiu (known as « Zapa » online). To make ends meet, he takes on mobile game development contracts for freelance clients. When he has enough to live on for a few months, though, he concentrates on his one-person development studio, Bearded Giant Games, which pumps out ports and original creations for Linux fans. His first big title to sell on Steam, Ebony Spire: Heresy, was a retro first-person dungeon crawler. The second, Space Mercs, is a space shooter.
Almost no one codes games for Linux exclusively. Zapa, one of the most committed Linux gaming devs around, still releases Windows versions of his game – for now. Nevertheless, his « Linux First » manifesto sees all his games launch on Linux initially with other versions appearing only if there’s enough interest.
Why export games for Linux at all? All the odds seem stacked against developers like Zapa. The operating system’s market share is woefully small on the desktop at less than 3 per cent. Nevertheless, Linux sales still make up about a quarter of his revenues.
Zapa focuses on Linux as his main development platform because he grew up using the operating system. It’s home to him. Besides, he says, from a technical perspective Linux is a better platform to port from.
« If you’ve developed something on Linux, then even if you use middleware, even if you use other frameworks, if they work on Linux 99 per cent of the time, they’re going to work without a hitch on Windows, » he explains. « There’s nothing on Linux that isn’t on Windows. »
Zapa copes with the revenue issue by keeping costs low. As a solo developer living in Romania, selling 5,000 copies of a $10 game can keep him working on more games full time. « That gives me a runway of about six months, » he says. « In some cases, that’s equal to about two to four games. »
He ended up selling about 6,000 copies of Ebony Spire: Heresy. He generally gets at least $200 through from sales of this and his other game on Steam. That might buy an Ubisoft executive lunch. « In a low-income country, that by itself pays rent, » he says.
For Caspian Prince, Linux represents almost no sales at all. The co-founder of UK-based Puppygames develops retro-chic arcade games like quirky zombie action game Basingstoke. He works remotely with pals in his spare time, often staying up till 3am to code after his day job… developing software. For him, producing a Linux version is relatively straightforward thanks to the Lightweight Java Game Library (LJGL), a framework he developed.
Being Java, the games that he builds run just as well on Linux as Windows. « It was never any effort for us to make a Linux portable games because there wasn’t any port. It just runs, » he says.
He doesn’t sell many Linux games. Like Bearded Giant, Puppygames puts its titles on Steam. In the past year, Puppygames has sold 290 of its eight games on Linux and nearly 9,000 on Windows. Even with its Patreon donations, the firm is just about breaking even.
Prince makes next to nothing from the Linux versions. In fact he’s preparing to give more of them away by donation on itch.io, a platform for indie gamers. So why produce Linux versions at all, given the inevitable support issues that come from users on multiple distros?
Linux gamers are just so darned nice, he says. They’re a welcome alternative to trolls using other platforms who slam his games – and him, personally – on social media.
« The Linux people are all really genuinely very helpful, very nice. Really, generally a bunch of great guys, because they’re all basically nerds and just grateful to get anything that works at all, » he says. While they might not pay much, money isn’t everything.
« When you aren’t making any money and you’re only doing it because you love it, having somebody tell you that it’s great and worthwhile and you made their day is priceless. »
Doing stuff for free or donations is a big part of the Linux gaming ethos, which is often steeped in open source. Prince open-sourced the LJGL in 2002, and six years later Markus Persson (aka « Notch ») used it as the graphics engine for that obscure indie title Minecraft. Persson sold his studio, Mojang, to Microsoft for $2.5bn in 2014. Neither Prince nor the LJGL project saw a penny in sponsorship or goodwill money.
First-person stealth game The Dark Mod (TDM) also uses open-source code. The project, which runs on Linux, Windows, and MacOS, began as a mod for Doom 3 and still uses the engine from original creator id Software.
« id Software had a record of both supporting Linux in their games as well as open-sourcing them after they were reaching their commercial end-of-life, » says « Greebo », an Austria-based developer who has worked on The Dark Mod project since 2006. He is part of a team of volunteers who keep adding new features to the game.
« Doom 3 just had [Linux support], but it was a team agreement to keep supporting it. TDM was lucky to have one or two Linux developers among them who made sure the game was still working on their platform, » he says.
Maintaining that support for the estimated 10 per cent of TDM users running Linux is a challenge, though. « If you stop thinking about a platform build, support is dropped sooner or later. »
It helps that the Doom 3 code is so polished. « It didn’t rely on a lot of external libraries, maybe for exactly that reason of having their code compiling on every platform, » says Greebo. « So when you need to link against a new library (eg to load a new video file format), you have to keep in mind that it has to be available on the other platforms too. »
Continuing to build for Linux users might be more difficult for some than others depending on their underlying development platform, but one thing is certain: Linux presents unique challenges when it comes to support.
Ben Golus, a designer who worked on Planetary Annihilation at Uber Entertainment, lamented the poor effort-reward ratio for Linux games support last year in a tweet. The game shipped on Windows, Mac, and Linux, he said, adding that Linux users accounted for 0.1 per cent of sales but 20 per cent of auto-reported crashes and support tickets. « Would totally skip Linux, » he concluded. Oh dear.
Luckily, not everyone feels that way. The Linux community can be a useful resource, says Caspian. Whereas users on other platforms might simply tell him the game isn’t working, Linux users treat bug hunting as a collaborative project. « They’ve come up with all sort of little fixes and tweaks over the years to help find the rough edges of deploying stuff on Linux. »
Root cause analysis is often easier for Linux and not just because the users are typically more technical, says Hein-Pieter van Braam. A Linux gaming dev himself, he is also on the project leadership team for Godot, an open-source games development engine that runs on and outputs games for multiple platforms including Linux.
« In practice, because of the different device drivers and different setups that people have, some of the problems that people think only Linux has, Windows also has, » he says, arguing that it’s often easier to pin down device driver issues on Linux.
« On Linux, you can just fix classes of problems and then they’re gone, whereas on Windows, they tend to resurface from time to time, » he adds.
Things are changing in Linux gaming. Valve now has Proton, a project that does a good job of running many Windows games on Linux platforms. That’s unlikely to stop Linux devs doing their thing, either via native code or multi-platform engines.
« I’m extremely happy it exists, like I’m happy [Google’s cloud-gaming platform] Stadia exists. If people can feel comfortable and have access to their things on Linux, it’s a blessing for everyone, » Zapa says. « I’m still here, and I’m still making my games. »
If anything, Bearded Giant is becoming even less mainstream. Zapa is phasing out support for Apple as the company becomes more controlling. He also plans to decamp from Steam soon enough, having grown tired of its opaque algorithms and the difficulty in getting visibility on the platform.
Instead, he’s leaning into obscurity. After his next game, an ambitious project for which he has hired a producer, he plans to drop support for Windows. Instead, he’ll continue to create games for Linux first and then build versions for retro platforms like the Commodore 64. You’ll have to order them from his web store on a USB stick.
« As long as there’s like, 2-300 people out there who like these games, I’m good, » he says. « I can keep doing them. I’m extremely lucky to be doing this work. » ®
This eBook looks for the lessons behind the major disruptions of 2020, as Learning & Development (L&D) professionals, plan for a future with-and-post COVID-19. From the closings and isolation of the pandemic to its economic impact both individually and collectively in the workplace and community, professionals have all been forced into course corrections. How much of this “correction response” will be needed in the future?
For professionals charged with training and the learning & development of others, learning how to surf the constant waves of change is now a critical competency for themselves as well as for those they develop.
What Should Learning And Development Professionals Be Preparing For Next
Get the ultimate guide to future-proofing your career.
Changes are certainly nothing new. Some say they seem to be increasing as the personal world expands beyond the immediate geographic range to one continually impacted by global changes. The growing role of technology continues to surface as both a driver and a solution during these disruptions. As we evolve in this world impacted by quarantines and globalization, the role of eLearning will escalate from a future need to a current requirement and as the predominant theme in the evolving world of L&D in the 21st century.
What’s next? This has become an even more complex and important question for any company, its employees, and job seekers within the industry. With the extensive upheavals in home, health, work, environment, and regulation — every aspect of daily living has been and may continue to be subjected to disruption.
Following principles of innovation, such as lateral thinking from Edward DeBono, professionals should learn to see these disruptions as opportunities to adjust and course-correct. The path from A to B may not be as straight as the airport landing strip but can provide an interesting journey with twists and turns as the organization navigates the barrage of changes. Rather than seeing these as obstacles, agile organizations learn to read the current to find the optimal flow.
STOP: How To Prepare For What’s Next
S: Scan the organization/systems
T: Target the trends emerging and on the horizon
O: Optimize resources based on the trends most likely to have a critical impact; determine the optimal plan to develop and utilize resources
P: Proceed to execute plans
As much as people may dislike the stop sign at an intersection when in a rush to a destination, it is a necessary safeguard — saving lives and preventing damage by forcing drivers to take a minute in dangerous areas to check out the environment and proceed cautiously. With today’s world packed with so many potential disruptions, it is a lifesaver for L&D and training professionals, as well, to designate periods to S.T.O.P.
Niche Career No Longer Exists – Flex To The Needs
Whether providing support in the development of staff or for your own career, flexibility and adaptation are key. In this age of VUCA, workers may need to reinvent themselves multiple times in the life of their employment cycle. The workplace of the Traditionalist or even of some Baby Boomers has evolved. Gone are the retirement pensions and guaranteed healthcare. Organizations are no longer prioritizing loyalty among staff, instead of looking to workers who can bring the new skills and mindsets required by the changing environment.
The greatest asset future employees can bring to an organization is the ability to navigate and to continually leverage interests and competencies to expand and evolve as organizational requirements do. Jobs change often and a lot; from skilled worker to those who can create and deploy automation; from full-time staff to those who can work part-time or as a contractor to a variety of organizations, while no longer depending on the hiring agent to provide basic benefits such as healthcare and retirement planning. The job seeker who can continually learn and adapt and can be self-sufficient will find greater success in the volatile workplace of the 21st century.
This is also true of Learning & Development functions. From the impacts seen in the environmental scan and the identified trends, L&D professionals will be most successful by taking the time to implement the S.T.O.P. program to move forward in an informed fashion, optimizing organizational resources and proceeding to grow the L&D function with a well-developed plan.
This is a time of much division. Families and communities are splintered by polarizing narratives. Outrage surrounds geopolitical discourse—so much so that anxiety often becomes a sort of white noise, making it increasingly difficult to trigger intense, acute anger. The effect can be desensitizing, like driving 60 miles per hour and losing hold of the reality that a minor error could result in instant death.
One thing that apparently still has the power to infuriate people, though, is how many spaces should be used after a period at the end of an English sentence.
The war is alive again of late because a study that came out this month from Skidmore College. The study is, somehow, the first to look specifically at this question. It is titled: “Are Two Spaces Better Than One? The Effect of Spacing Following Periods and Commas During Reading.”
It appears in the current issue of the journal Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics. As best I can tell, psychophysics is a word; the Rochester Institute of Technology defines it as the “study of the relationship between stimuli (specified in physical terms) and the sensations and perceptions evoked by these stimuli.” The researchers are also real. Rebecca Johnson, an associate professor in Skidmore’s department of psychology, led the team. Her expertise is in the cognitive processes underlying reading. As Johnson told me, “Our data suggest that all readers benefit from having two spaces after periods.”
“Increased spacing has been shown to help facilitate processing in a number of other reading studies,” Johnson explained to me by email, using two spaces after each period. “Removing the spaces between words altogether drastically hurts our ability to read fluently, and increasing the amount of space between words helps us process the text.”
In the Skidmore study, among people who write with two spaces after periods—“two-spacers”—there was an increase in reading speed of 3 percent when reading text with two spaces following periods, as compared to one. This is, Johnson points out, an average of nine additional words per minute above their performance “under the one-space conditions.”
This is a small difference, though if a change like this saved even a tiny amount of time, or prevented a tiny amount of miscommunication, the net benefit across billions of people could be enormous. Entire economies could be made or broken, wars won or lost.
Or so it would seem. The conclusions she drew from that data pushed people into their corners on social media, where they dealt with it in variously intense ways.
Justin Wolfers, a professor of economics and public policy at University of Michigan, tweeted in reference to the study: “Science can blow your mind sometimes, and this time it has come down on the side of two spaces after a period.”
Nicholas Christakis, a professor at Yale University, wrote: “Hurray! Science vindicates my longstanding practice, learned at age 12, of using TWO SPACES after periods in text. NOT ONE SPACE. Text is easier to read that way. Of course, on Twitter, I use one space, given 280 characters.”
There’s a lot going on in that tweet, but you get the idea.
Others were less ecstatic. Robert VerBruggen, the deputy managing editor at National Review, shared the study with the comment: “New facts forced me to change my mind about drug legalization but I just don’t think I can do this.”
My colleague Ian Bogost tweeted simply, “This is terrorism.”
Full disclosure: I also shared a screenshot of the study’s conclusion that “the eye-movement record suggested that initial processing of the text was facilitated when periods were followed by two spaces.” I said about this only, “Oh no.”
I find two spaces after a period unsettling, like seeing a person who never blinks or still has their phone’s keyboard sound effects on. I plan to teach my kids never to reply to messages from people who put two spaces after a period. I want this study’s conclusion to be untrue—to uncover some error in the methodology, or some scandal that discredits the researchers or the university or the entire field of psychophysics.
So let’s look for that. Because this really does matter: In a time of greater and greater screen time, and more and more consumption of media, how do we optimize the information-delivery process?
In much the same way that we’re taught to write in straight lines from left to right, most of us have been taught that one way of spacing is simply right, and the other is wrong. Less often are we taught to question the standard—whether it makes sense, or whether it should change. But what is the value of education if not to teach children to question the status quo, and to act in deliberate ways that they can justify with sound, rational arguments?
Such an argument is extremely difficult to make when it comes to sentence spacing, because the evidence is not there for either case. The fact that the scientifically optimal number of spaces hasn’t been well studied was odd to Johnson, given the strength of people’s feelings on the subject. The new American Psychological Association style guidelines came out recently, and they had changed from one space to two spaces following periods because they claimed it “increased the readability of the text.” This galled Johnson: “Here we had a manual written to teach us how to write scientifically that was making claims that were not backed with empirical evidence!”
She was intrigued and designed the new study “to add some scientific data to the conversation.”
Her rationale for two spaces gets complex—verging into the domain of rather high-level psychophysical theory (email me). As the researchers explain it, it’s all about mechanics of the eye, and what causes us to trip up or pause, even for a split second. In the current study, when text was presented with two spaces after periods, some readers’ eyes were more likely to jump over the “punctuation region” and spend less unnecessary time fixated on it. The extra space seemed to make it easier for readers to “extract the lines and curves from the text.” The space also comes into the periphery of one’s vision before it arrives, and that helps to signal that the sentence is wrapping up.
The Skidmore study was small and less than definitive—essentially dipping a toe into a long-unquestioned practice. There were only 60 subjects, and they were all college students—meaning they were probably more interested in “hooking up” and “Snapchat” than actually reading. (Ed.: This is too much editorializing, apologies.)
Most importantly, the effects appeared early in processing, and spacing did not affect overall comprehension. And that’s what reading is all about, no? The fact that our eyes may move a little faster is less important than whether the concepts make it into our brains.
“It’s not like people COULDN’T understand the text when only one space was used after the periods,” said Johnson. “The [human] reading system is pretty flexible, and we can comprehend written material regardless of whether it is narrowly or widely spaced.”
Angela Chen at The Verge also gave a pointed critique of the methodology:
The two-space convention is left over from the days of typewriters. Typewriters allot the same amount of space for every character, so a narrow character like i gets as much as a wider character like w. (This is called a mono-spaced font.) With a typewriter, it makes sense to add an extra space to make it clear that the sentence has ended. Today’s word-processing software makes fonts proportional, though, which is why we only need one space. Also, it looks better. TheChicago Manual of Style and the Modern Language Association Style Manual also take this stance.
“I’ve gotten a lot of flak for using a mono-spaced font (Courier New) in the study,” said Johnson. Her defense is that most eye-tracking studies use monospaced fonts, and that many word-processing systems still, in practice, act like typewriters (in that they don’t add additional space between sentences even when using proportional fonts; to increase the amount of space between sentences relative to the amount of space between any two words within the sentence, two physical spaces are still needed following the period). “Although I agree that future research should look at these effects using other types of fonts, research in this area suggests that font differences in general are small or nonexistent.”
Even in the studies where researchers have removed interword spaces altogether, reading comprehension is still very high. For example, Thai and Chinese are typically written without spaces between words, even though studies have found that when space is added between words, reading speed increases. The standard comes down to aesthetics, tradition, conservation of paper and space—basically, the fact that reading is an act of much more than information delivery.
I’ve written before about the effect of color gradients on reading, and how it goes against the findings of science that our words should be in a single color, usually black and usually on a near-white background, and usually presented in lines of a certain length. This is all a matter of tradition and style, not optimal information transfer. This standard does not work well for everyone. It’s why I thought, for a long time, that I didn’t like books. I wasn’t good at the mechanics of reading. When I found text-to-speech programs and actual audiobooks, it was like finally seeing the turtle in one of those Magic Eye posters that everyone else at the party saw hours ago.
All of this is to say that if we really wanted to do evidence-based delivery of text for maximum comprehension, it wouldn’t be like debating one space or two. It would look totally different: words spewing into your face by some sort of torrent that syncs with feedback about your perception, and slows or pauses when you are distracted, and speeds up when you are bored.
Still, this has been a good exercise in challenging beliefs, at least for me. What is important is that this question not be what breaks us—that Americans remember that we are united by the ideals of democracy, freedom, liberty, and justice that we still hold dear, and which demand our allegiance above any person or party or spacing issue.
The idea of compulsory education first developed in Europe and then spread to the rest of the world between the 16th and 19th centuries. But education as we know it today, came into existence only in the 19th and 20th centuries. At this time, the curriculum expanded, the method became more humane, the number of compulsory schooling hours increased, knowledge expanded to incorporate a growing list of subjects, and courses became more secular.
But even after all these changes had taken place, the evolution of education did not stop. In fact, the first two decades of the 21st century might have experienced more changes in education methods and techniques than the entire 20th century. This has largely been because of the eLearning revolution.
Educational transformation is expected to continue in 2021, with most of the trends being propelled by digital technologies. The changes that the pandemic brought about in the educational system is likely to gather steam and make a permanent place in learning. So, here are some of the main trends expected to guide education in 2021.
Personalization of education is not entirely a new concept. It is believed to have emerged in the 20th century, when educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom found that students who were given personalized education performed better than those who were not provided such lessons. But the concept didn’t receive the recognition it deserved until very recently. This was perhaps because of the lack of sufficient technology for the efficient implementation of personalized learning.
With the right EdTech tools, students are placed at the center of the learning experience. Research has shown that this approach can considerably improve academic outcomes. In a study, mathematics and reading scores of over 5,000 students were analyzed for a complete academic year. It was found that with personalized learning, the reading and mathematics score increased by 2 points. It was also helpful for students with special needs, since it allowed self-paced learning.
Personalized learning requires detailed analytics and reporting about student learning behavior, preferences and performance. This can then be utilized to create a better learning path.
The short attention span of today’s students is one of the major challenges faced by educators. In a study, it was found that the attention span of students can vary from 3-4 minutes to 10-18 minutes. But the lessons in modern classrooms can last up to 60 minutes at a time. This means that many students might fail to absorb all that is taught in the classroom.
Nano learning and micro learning can be extremely beneficial in such scenarios. This involves dividing the lessons into bite-sized pieces. This ensures that the learners are engaged for longer and retain information better. Audio, videos, and interactive content can be used in these lessons to make the information even more attractive for students.
Use of Formative Assessments
The days of summative assessments being the only option to evaluate student understanding are slowly receding. Instead, formative assessments are being widely used. Formative assessments help check the learning outcomes throughout the process, instead of just grading at the end of the term. This type of assessment has been found to support student achievement and motivation.
Formative assessments can tell what improvements the lesson structure and course content require as well. They also provide a voice to the students. With the help of small questionnaires at the end, students can tell whether they were satisfied or dissatisfied with the lessons.
Games and education might seem contradictory to some people. But gamification in education has also been gaining serious momentum in the past few years. Gamification is being used to make even the most dreaded subjects, fun and engaging for students. Games improve the attention span of students, provide better motivation, and improve engagement. In fact, for 67% of the students, courses with gaming elements are more motivating than traditional courses. This helps in improving the overall learning outcomes.
Apart from these, education in 2021 is also expected to have more immersive lessons, higher use of video technology, and better use of analytics. But to include all these learning technologies and trends in education, you need a powerful EdTech platform, such as MagicBoxTM. MagicBoxTM is an award-winning, cloud based, end-to-end educational publishing and distribution platform that comes with rich features for educators, educational publishers and students. To know more about how MagicBoxTM can help you, contact us.
Time is one villain that corporate L&D has to constantly wage war against. According to the Valamis 2020 report, 48.4% of training professionals acknowledge that time is the biggest challenge for corporate learning & development. Is there anything we can we do to remedy this (inventing more time is not an option!)? The best solution is a training development strategy that makes the best use of available time without compromising on quality. And that’s where rapid eLearning development comes in.
5 Online Review Tools to Speed up Rapid eLearning Development
Review My eLearning
Rapid eLearning development involves the use of technology (e.g. authoring tools) and streamlines the entire development process from the initial planning, to the design and development, to the final reviews to get them done as quickly and efficiently as possible. While there is a lot of information on the use of authoring tools for eLearning design and development, there isn’t much on how course reviews are done. So, today we’ll discuss the popular online review tools and how they help in rapid eLearning development.
Online Review Tools for Rapid eLearning Development
1. Articulate Review 360
Review 360 is a built-in online review tool that comes as a part of the Articulate 360 authoring suite. What this means is that if you are using Storyline 360 or Rise 360 for eLearning course development, you need not look for an external app for online reviews.
Review 360 enables you to share the storyboard, prototype, and final course with stakeholders, subject matter experts, and other reviewers easily and get all comments and feedback at the same place. This saves time for both the reviewers and the L&D team, and also avoids the hassle of going back and forth between different documents.
Reviewers can add their comments on each slide to provide context to the authors. Once the change is implemented, the author can mark it as resolved. This streamlined review-feedback process makes it easy to keep track of all updates, avoiding repetition and rework.
Perhaps the only drawback of Review 360 is that it can only be used for courses developed using Articulate authoring tools. But considering how widely both Storyline 360 and Rise 360 are used for rapid eLearning development, having an exclusive review app comes in very handy.
The online review tool ReviewLink is associated with another rapid eLearning authoring suite – Lectora 10. But unlike Review 360, ReviewLink doesn’t work exclusively for Lectora courses. You can import HTML5 courses developed with other authoring tools like Storyline or Captivate and still use ReviewLink for the online course reviews.
While ReviewLink too allows collaborative reviews and on-slide feedback through comments like other online review tools, it has some unique features that help in rapid eLearning development.
Its Responsive Course Design (RCD) makes Lectora the preferred tool for mobile learning development. And ReviewLink allows you to preview the course in different mobile orientations (checking the alignment of course content and media in every screen aspect ratio) which is a must for reviewing mobile learning courses.
There is no limit to the number of reviewers working on a project. Reviewers can add their comments and course authors can track, view, filter, and update the comments and feedback, and also mark them as fixed/resolved. The reviewers can then confirm the changes were appropriate, marking them ‘OK’ or ‘Not Ok.’
Course authors can filter, sort, and search a list of all comments, and export the comments to a PDF or CSV file to work offline.
ReviewLink can operate in 7 different languages which makes eLearning translation reviews extremely easy.
3. iSpring Space
iSpring Space is the newest online review platform that comes as a part of iSpring Suite Max. It is different from other review tools because it is a cloud platform that can be used for collaborative authoring as well as reviews. Authors need not go through the feedback comments, make changes in the course, and then import the newer version. Instead, they can simply make changes to the slides directly in Space itself. This means faster review cycles and rapid eLearning development.
Also, since iSpring Space is cloud-based, neither reviewers nor authors need a dedicated device to review and update changes. They just need the Internet to login through a browser to access courses.
4. Captivate Reviewer
Captivate Reviewer is an online review app that can be downloaded for free if you have an acrobat.com membership. (It is usual for most L&D teams to have at least one membership considering the range of tools Adobe offers for various aspects of eLearning design and development.)
Captivate reviewer allows the uploading and tracking of reviews online, enables feedback, and monitors changes from your local servers. Another useful feature is its filtering system, which helps authors to sort comments by keyword and then reply to them individually.
It also allows shared reviews where authors and reviewers on a common network can view the comments posted by each other. They can also accept, reject and seek feedback on the comments given by the reviewers.
There’s also provision to accommodate reviewers who are not part of the shared network, if there’s work on the project. They can export their comments to an XML file and send it to the development team or the author. After that, the author can easily import the XML file into the eLearning course or project to check comments on the slides where the reviewers posted them.
5. Review My eLearning
Unlike the previous four online review tools we discussed in this blog, Review My eLearning is not associated with any one particular authoring tool or suite. It is a third-party tool that can import eLearning courses, irrespective of the tool used for its development.
Review My eLearning has an easy and intuitive interface that allows SMEs to review courses easily without wasting time trying to figure out how the tool works. It has simple text fields for feedback/comments and checkboxes to indicate what is being reviewed, what is pending review, and what has already been resolved. It has an auto-detect feature to search slide numbers and titles so reviewers don’t have to waste time going back and forth through the course.
With this tool, you need not generate different links for different versions of the same course. A single link generated for the project can be shared with all stakeholders, SMEs, and authors working on the project.
It has a fully encrypted 128 bit, TLS 1.2 connection that ensures security of data.
You may not realize it, but reviews can take a lot of time in the eLearning development process. That is the time that you can save with online review tools. I hope this blog gave you some clarity on the different review tools available in the market today.
If you want more information on what rapid eLearning development is all about, download our eBook.
To say 2020 was a challenging year is like announcing the Hindenburg had a rough landing. In a period that’s transformed how billions live their lives, there isn’t one person, family, business, or industry that wasn’t impacted significantly by upheaval. And that includes going to the movies.
Just 12 months ago, moviegoers were turning out by the millions to see their favorite space adventures in theaters. Now they’re watching them, and everything else, on streaming. It’s an astonishing journey we’ve detailed further here, but even if our relationship to how we experience films is changing, the fact remains cinema is as vital a form of escape and inspiration as ever. And even in 2020, as Hollywood studios largely abandoned multiplexes to fend for themselves, there also remained excellent motion pictures. Some were released on Netflix, some experimented with premium video on demand, and a rarified few still entered theaters.
Here’s 25 of them.
This Zoom horror movie, completed from start to finish in 12 weeks during the middle of a pandemic, might be the movie that sums up 2020 better than any other. But it should also be noted that it’s genuinely very good. The feature debut of Rob Savage runs at just 57 minutes (how very 2020, as in any other year its halfway house runtime might have hurt the movie’s chances), and in that time it sees a group of friends attempt to carry out a séance over Zoom. However, something goes wrong (or is that right?) and a malign entity enters the call.
Performed by a group of women, and one man, who already know each other really well, it’s the easy shorthand of their friendship that elevates this and helps the audience to instantly care. Meanwhile it’s the ambition and inventiveness of Savage and writers Jed Shepherd and Gemma Hurley which increases the scale of this beyond a lockdown found footage movie and into territory where complicated stunt work was involved. First and foremost though, it’s scary. Like really scary. How very 2020. – Rosie Fletcher
There is currently a bit of controversy over the Golden Globes categorizing Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari as a “foreign language film.” If that stands, it will be a genuine shame, and a greater slight, for this is an all-American story. A semi-autobiographical reverie for its writer-director, Minari depicts a family of Korean-Americans who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s and are now trying to make it as farmers in rural Arkansas in the 1980s.
A beautiful ode to childhood, and both the hardships and joys of the immigrant experience, what’s most rewarding about Chung’s film is its quiet intelligence at working from first the perception of a child named David (Alan S. Kim), and then also from the vantage of his parents and their increasingly frayed marriage (a mutually raw Steven Yeun and Yeri Han). It even has a deep reservoir of understanding for the more complex sorrows of grandmother Soonja (Youn Yuh-jung). Minari is a sophisticated multigenerational snapshot of a distinct group of American lives, and it’s among the best films of the year, however you categorize it. – David Crow
Miranda July’s ethereal scammer dramedy carries the con-artist torch from Bong Joon-ho’s 2019 masterpiece, Parasite, and once again allows audiences to live vicariously through a scrappy family surviving on society’s margins. But unlike Bong’s Kims, Kajillionaire’s Dynes (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger) are far from sympathetic; they’re poisoned by their warped take on the American Dream.
Evan Rachel Wood turns in one of 2020’s most stunning performances as their strange daughter, Old Dolio: fierce yet naïve, raised to regard all relationships as transactional and so utterly at a loss as to how to navigate her attraction to their new co-conspirator Melanie (Gina Rodriguez). Old Dolio’s roughness contrasts beautifully with the surreal wonder of July’s dreamy motifs—here, soap bubbles representing the fragility of a life that could change with one puncture.
No one could have predicted that this year would implode worse than a scam gone wrong, nor that even the most well-adjusted families would have to grapple with setting uncomfortable but life-saving boundaries with loved ones. Yet here we are, and somehow July’s hopeful story came to us at exactly the right time: We can delight in Old Dolio breaking toxic patterns, and the elder Dynes learning that letting go of something valuable can be more beneficial than squeezing the life out of it. – Natalie Zutter
22. The Assistant
One of the year’s most unassuming but devastating films is writer-director Kitty Green’s seamless foray from documentary (Casting JonBenet, Ukraine is Not a Brothel) into a classic “inspired by true events” feature. Those true events are the Harvey Weinstein scandal, as the film follows a day in the life of a low-level assistant (Julia Garner) in a prominent Hollywood executive’s New York City office. The Weinstein-like character is never directly seen, and Jane is one of many peons who sketch out the space around his considerable form, as they arrange his midday hotel reservations and restock his private stash of erectile dysfunction medication.
Yet out of the whole office, Jane is both the most valuable and the least valued: first one in, last one out, she has devoted all of her waking hours to streamlining this powerful man’s day—which includes covering over his gravest sins with regard to the pretty, impressionable young women she ushers into his office.
Every phone conversation or behind-closed-doors meeting is intentionally muffled so that Jane herself can hardly hear it, let alone the audience. These murmuring pockets invite the viewer to fill in the blanks, imagining the worst possible scenario. The film never gets explicit, but Jane’s dawning realization and horror at her complicity is unsettling enough. Even more so when her attempts to flag this unimaginably inappropriate behavior get undermined by the self-protecting hierarchy of the company. The Assistant is more character portrait than anything else, and it treats its archetypal figure with more sympathy than her real-life counterparts might have earned, but its depiction of seemingly harmless eccentricities snowballing into an unconscionable abuse of power is a must-watch. – NZ
21. His House
This Netflix original horror movie took people by surprise when it landed on the service. The feature debut from Remi Weekes, His House is a clever, nuanced political movie that leans hard into horror tropes, working both as a commentary on the treatment of refugees in Britain and as a seriously frightening ghost story. Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country) and Sope Dirisu (Gangs of London) play a Sudanese couple who escape the violence of their own country only to find themselves hemmed in by the bureaucracy and judgement of the UK. Placed in a decrepit home that they can’t leave, they are haunted by spirits they brought with them while facing the nightmare of a country that pretends to care but barely sees them as people.
The performances across the board, including a supporting role from Matt Smith, soar, and the production design is unique, haunting, and at times very beautiful. This is a powerful first film from an exciting new voice, a must-watch for genre lovers, and a showcase for a strong, if not often told, social message that talks about culture, society, and gender. It’s about the demons we see and the ones we do not. – RF
Jane Austen’s fourth novel, and the last published in her lifetime, has been filmed many times. But director Autumn de Wilde’s version is the best one, perhaps because she is the first woman to helm a straightforward adaptation. Leaning into Austen’s own designs for the book, where the author mused she would “take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,” Emma. embraces the mischievous and sardonic side of Austen’s wit, and her heroine who was gifted with being “handsome, clever, and rich” from the word go.
Filmed with supreme confidence and a sumptuous color palette of bright pastels in brighter natural lighting, Emma. is vibrant and often veers cheerfully near screwball comedy. This approach is only buoyed by Anya Taylor-Joy, who began a strong year of work with this multifaceted and exceedingly rich portrait of Ms. Woodhouse, in the most magnanimous sense. She and her director searched for “questionable intent” in the material while still crafting a warm film that bubbles with life. It also enjoys a wonderful soundtrack thanks to a collection of actual 18th and 17th century English folk songs, and a puckish score by David Schweitzer and Isobel Waller-Bridge. – DC
19. The Father
Director and screenwriter Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his own stage play stars Anthony Hopkins as Anthony, an elderly English man suffering from the onset of dementia. Olivia Colman is his daughter Anne, who is planning a move to Paris to live with her partner, and is desperately trying to find a new caregiver for her father. People drift in and out of the narrative under different names, Anthony’s spacious apartment seems to change around him and time itself seems to bend before we realize we are seeing almost all the events from Anthony’s point of view—which means that none of what we see can truly be trusted.
This makes what could have been a conventional drama about illness and memory into something brilliant and terribly heartbreaking, with Hopkins and Colman giving performances that are nothing short of titanic and Zeller’s cool, controlled direction making the emotional cost even more profound. The final scenes of this nearly perfect film will leave you devastated, even if this awful disease has never impacted your life personally. – Don Kaye
18. Sound of Metal
Sound of Metal gives us an up-close, immersive look at what it feels like to suddenly go deaf, and to realize that massive life changes don’t have to portend the end of what it means to live. Riz Ahmed is excellent as Ruben, a recovering drug addict who drums in a heavy metal duo alongside his girlfriend, singer/guitarist Lou (Olivia Cooke). The two tour the indie rock circuit in a beat-up but cozy RV that also serves as their home, but their gypsy lifestyle is upended when Ruben abruptly loses his hearing.
Director Darius Marder (who co-wrote the script with Abraham Marder) does not give into sentimentality even as Ruben moves through grief, loss, denial, anger, and self-pity, all the while clinging to the possibility that he may find a surgical way to restore his hearing. His journey also takes him to a home for deaf people in recovery (headed up by the marvelous Paul Raci, whose own real-life story involving deafness is remarkable), and eventually opens his heart and mind. The excellent sound design is the final touch on a captivating and highly original story. – DK
17. The Personal History of David Copperfield
After exposing the sheer absurdity of modern politics in films and series like In The Loop, The Death of Stalin, and Veep, Armando Iannucci found solace this year in creating this earnest, light, charming adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, David Copperfield. The film still tackles Dickens’ persistent themes of class, privilege, poverty, and human rights, although in far less scathing fashion than Iannucci is known for. Casting his project in colorblind fashion has also allowed the director to subtly modernize the piece while grounding it firmly in 1850s England.
Some of us may get a bit lost in the onrush of characters and events in this fast-paced film, as Iannucci breezes through a lot of the book’s events. But the story itself, and the multitude of vivid, colorful, oddball characters who are led by an enthusiastic Dev Patel as David, are so timeless and relevant to the human condition that only diehard loyalists to the original text may find something to grumble about. The rest of us can enjoy a delightful adaptation that we might not even know we needed. – DK
16. Bad Education
For his whole career, Hugh Jackman has been celebrated for his consummate showmanship. Whether it is as ambassador for a major superhero franchise or the song and dance man who can win Tonys at the same ceremony he’s hosting, his charm is irresistible. So imagine his delight when director Cory Finely presented him with Bad Education: the movie where his ability to ingratiate turns into something sinister and perfectly apt for the year it was released in.
Based on a 2004 New York Magazine article about the largest school embezzlement scandal in history, Bad Education plays like a dark comedy about American greed, as well as prologue for the 21st century hucksterism that was to come. Filmed with the same clinical nihilism found in Finley’s Thoroughbreds, this film is so much larger in its landscape of apathy of self-delusion. And at the center of it is Jackman’s affable Long Island school superintendent, a man who hides dark secrets and a bottomless pit of narcissism, both of which allow him to tell any lie that keeps him on top. Hence why watching his house of cards fall is pretty satisfying, especially these days. – DC
15. Small Axe
Steve McQueen’s latest effort, an anthology of short films set around Black communities in 1970s and ’80s Britain has been the source of some debate. Should these be looked at as individual films or can the work only be considered as a whole? We don’t have a satisfactory answer either, but Small Axe is as thoroughly compelling as the rest of McQueen’s work, and two films in particular, Mangrove and Lovers Rock are standouts.
Mangrove is the longest, most traditionally “feature length” entry in Small Axe. Gifted with urgent, authentic performances to tell the story of the Mangrove Nine, it’s also (like the rest of the films in the anthology) an effortlessly immersive recreation of its era, even as its subject matter resonates uncomfortably with today’s headlines. But while the other movies that comprise Small Axe are shorter than many features, they’re no less powerful. The immensely beautiful Lovers Rock, with its haunting reggae soundtrack and beautifully filmed party scenes, serves as a reminder of so much of what we’ve lost and taken for granted in this pandemic year, and the intimacy that can be found in crowds. It’s essential viewing, and both a snapshot of a moment in time and a reminder of something else we’ve lost to this pandemic year. – Mike Cecchini
14. Tenet (READERS’ CHOICE)
In a tumultuous year, no blockbuster has had quite as much controversy surrounding it as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. The director was notoriously adamant that his film should be the one to lead moviegoers back to cinemas worldwide, a quixotic (some might say selfish) endeavor that might’ve undercut the ambition of a movie that blends the action and spectacle of the wildest James Bond movies with elements of time travel, quantum physics, and Nolan’s famed attention to detail.
But lost in all that controversy—and perhaps in its nigh-incomprehensible plot—is the fact that maybe, were the world not in the midst of a deadly pandemic, Nolan was right.
Perhaps more than any other blockbuster of the last year or more, Tenetwas clearly designed with the cinematic experience in mind. Action set pieces, filmed in gorgeous locations that would be spectacular on their own, take on the quality of magic tricks as events and performances are “inverted” by the film’s central, mysterious technology.
Even Nolan’s notorious penchant for emotionally distant main characters is undercut by performances from John David Washington and Robert Pattinson that bring this about as close to a buddy action movie two-hander as you’re ever likely to see from the director. Whether you ultimately view Tenet as a smarter-than-your-average thrill ride or a puzzle that can only be unlocked via repeated viewings, it still deserves, even demands, your full attention. – MC
13. One Night in Miami
Regina King has been in the business of making movies for nearly three decades. Who knew she could also be such an astonishing director? Yet with her first theatrical feature, she announces undiscovered talent in this sweltering, jubilant film that interrogates what life is like at the intersection of Black art and Black commerce in America.
With screenwriter Kemp Powers adapting his own stage play, One Night in Miami imagines a fictional account of an evening where Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and the man who would soon be Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree) walk into a 1964 motel room. Their conversations about the challenges of Black celebrity in a world that pulls them both toward the desperate need of social equity and the more comfortable appeal of white-friendly affability, is one that is still going on to this day. But it’s told here with bombastic performances and a visual flair that is so kinetic it overcomes the admittedly stagebound limitations of the film’s conceit. – DC
What does it mean to have soul? How do you feed it? Joe Gardner, the Jamie Foxx-voiced protagonist of Soul, thinks he has the answer in the keys of his music, but the beauty of this latest Pixar film is it lives within the ambiguous places that aren’t be so easily defined. As yet another sophisticated offering from co-director Pete Docter, who previously co-helmed Inside Out, Soul pushes Pixar back toward its ambitious best, finding a way to convey complex ideas in an adventure with universal appeal.
With dazzling animation that leans into abstract concepts about life, death, and a weird transient state between the two, the film asks big questions in a way a child can appreciate, if not fully understand. To be sure, it’s the rare kids’ movie that gingerly suggests there is happiness in the seeming pointlessness of existence. It also benefits from ascendant music by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste on the piano. In fact, realizing Nine Inch Nails penned one of the great Disney scores might be 2020’s most pleasant surprise. – DC
11. Saint Maud
The directorial debut of Rose Glass did the festival circuit in 2019 and was due to land in cinemas in the spring. Instead it was pushed back to October in the UK, mid-pandemic. So perhaps it didn’t get the fanfare it would have garnered in a normal year. Set in a rundown seaside town, the movie sees young palliative care nurse Maud (Morfydd Clark) become obsessed with her patient Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), who is dying of cancer. After a highly traumatic incident, Maud has found God—a God she believes talks directly to her and has made it Maud’s mission to save Amanda’s soul.
A nightmarish horror of shifting perception, where bodies and minds are in conflict, this is a movie packed with indelible imagery, not least the devastating final scene. Ehle is excellent as the former dancer whose body is letting her down, but Clark is a revelation as the tiny, fierce Maud, all self-flagellation and buttoned up piety until she’s not. – RF
Utilizing both actors and real people, director Chloé Zhao (The Rider and Marvel’s upcoming Eternals) chronicles the lives of America’s “forgotten people” as they travel the West, searching for work, companionship, and community in the years following the Great Recession. A brilliant Frances McDormand stars as Fern, a woman in her mid-60s who lost her husband, her house, and her entire previous existence when the town she lived in—Empire, Nevada—vanished off the map following the closure of its sole factory.
Zhao’s film quietly flows from despair to optimism and back to despair again, all while the hardscrabble lives of its itinerant cast (many of them actual nomads) is foregrounded against stunning, if lonely, vistas from the American countryside. Nomadland shows us both the best and worst of America at once: the cruelty of a nation that refuses more and more to take care of its own, juxtaposed with the decency and compassion one can find on an individual basis. Whether the latter is enough to overcome the former is one of Nomadland’s haunting, unanswered questions. – DK
9. Wonder Woman 1984
A movie about flying and lying (even to one’s self), Wonder Woman 1984 came onto the pop culture scene at the very end of a very bad year. For many, the film’s muddled superhero logic and lackluster third act action scenes were enough to ruin the experience. For others, including many of us, the big budget earnestness of Diana Prince won the day. The film’s delights include charismatic performances from Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig as complex antagonists Maxwell Lord and Cheetah; a breathtaking Themyscira sequence; and Chris Pine pretending to ride an escalator for the first time.
Ultimately, however, Wonder Woman 1984 warrants a spot on this list due to its unexpected thematic priority. While many storytellers use a 1980s setting as an excuse to blast Blondie (fair enough), give the costume department free rein on shoulder pads (yes, please), or to harken back to an imagined simpler time (sure, whatever), director and co-writer Patty Jenkins uses it as a way to rewrite American history.
If the 1980s was an era that saw economic policies shifting the power from government to Wall Street, then here is a superhero flick that goes back in time to imagine a different path forward, one in which America is able to avoid the path that prioritizes the few over the many. It’s a fantasy, sure—and one that is understandably too porous for some to enjoy—but it’s a particularly cathartic one for 2020. – Kayti Burt
8. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Adapted from August Wilson’s play by director George C. Wolfe (and not quite able to escape its stage origins), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is set during a heated recording session by the title artist–one of the pioneering blues singers of the 1920s–and her touring band. As tensions rise between Ma (Viola Davis) and certain band members, plus Ma and the white men, who of course own the record label, the band members find themselves at odds over the music they’re making and much more.
While Ma and the events of the story may be fictionalized, the issues that come up—race, religion, money, and art—are not just universal but as relevant as ever in terms of the Black experience in America. Davis is a supernova as Ma, and the rest of the supporting cast is just as terrific. Yet the spotlight undeniably belongs to the late Chadwick Boseman in his final screen appearance. As Levee, the trumpeter who wants to go solo, Boseman radiates rage, pain, and frustration in a performance as incendiary as it is tragic. – DK
7. Birds of Prey
Harley Quinn’s fabulous emancipation was just that—fabulous. As a fierce, funny, feminist ensemble piece with a quality cast that flipped on its head Harley’s dubious treatment at the hands of Mr. J in Suicide Squad, Harley herself, Margot Robbie, pitched the movie back in 2015. Birds of Prey shows a different side to Gotham City where a grubby underworld of people are trying to scratch together a living, and the only thing objectified in this female team-up is a bacon and egg sandwich (and what a sandwich it is).
Working from a script by Christina Hodson, director Cathy Yan’s film has a totally different flavor from anything that had come before from the DCEU. R-Rated, rude, and colorful, the movie sees the whole of Gotham out to get Harley now that she’s no longer under the Joker’s protection. But a young pickpocket, a stolen diamond, and Ewan McGregor’s gangster bring together a mismatched bunch in a joyful slice of anarchy that hits exactly the right notes. Superhero movies don’t get much more fun than this. – RF
The authorship of Citizen Kanehas divided critics and film scholars for generations. So you can almost sense the glee boiling up in David Fincher as Mank wades right into the middle of it with a stylized and exquisitely crafted love letter to Herman J. Mankiewicz—and proverbial middle finger toward Orson Welles. One sympathizes, as Mankiewicz (or “Mank”) has been an unsung figure in film history: a member of New York’s 1920s generation of literary writers and journalists who bought into the allure of easy money in Hollywood but never got the credit he deserved for selling his soul.
Well, Mank attempts to return it with interest. A film that basks in demolishing Old Hollywood nostalgia, even with its black and white photography and heightened melodramatic score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Mank recalls the ugly side of yesteryear, and the greed that slaughtered talent, be it for money as embodied by Louis B. Mayer, or ego as personified by the film’s vision of Welles.
Yet its elegy for Mankiewicz—portrayed with delicious self-loathing by Gary Oldman—and his generation of forgotten writers is what makes the film unexpectedly warm for a Fincher joint. As does Mank’s relationship with Marion Davies, an also overlooked movie star given spirited reconsideration by Amanda Seyfried in one of the year’s best performances. – DC
5. Palm Springs
There must be something hypnotic about the banality of time loops, because to date the concept hasn’t produced a bad movie. Harold Ramis and Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day remains the paterfamilias, and prime original day, for the form. Yet that film’s many imitators have still pushed other filmmakers toward genuine inspiration. And that may have never been truer than for Palm Springs, a millennial reimagining of Groundhog’s exploration of a romance stuck on repeat—but with an ingenious added wrinkle.
Instead of one half a potential couple being oblivious to her role in a cyclical love story, both Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) are keenly aware of their shared Sisyphean hell. Worse still, they’re also trapped at a lame wedding. The small addition has massive creative repercussions, with director Max Barbakow and company lightly critiquing the implicit ickiness in Ramis’ film, as well as providing an opportunity for a true two-hander film between Samberg and Milioti. It’s Samberg’s best work to date, but Milioti is the real revelation as the woman who is our eyes and ears into a circular existence that is both horrifying and pleasant, romantic and exhausting. Like the film as a whole, this is a delightful nightmare. – DC
4. Da 5 Bloods
Hollywood’s great reckoning with America’s involvement in the Vietnam War may never truly end. But few films have gotten to the human cost of the war that lingers long after soldiers came home quite as emotionally as Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods.
Alternately a heartfelt tale of friendship and identity amidst shared hardship and a raucous action movie, effortlessly connecting the dots between the racial politics of the Civil Rights era during the Vietnam War and the Black Lives Matter movement of today, Da 5 Bloods may be the most clear-sighted movie about the conflict ever made. The film’s emotional power is bolstered even further by a rousing Terence Blanchard score, as well as a significant chunk of Marvin Gaye’s era-defining masterpiece album, What’s Going On.
Even at 156 minutes, Da 5 Bloods never overstays its welcome. Despite an action heavy third act that may seem incongruous with some of the film’s weightier themes, its characters are so powerful, and the performances so unforgettable, that nothing is ever lost. And while each of the film’s five leads (not to mention Chadwick Boseman’s almost ethereal “Stormin’” Norman Holloway, seen only in flashback) are terrific, none are more haunting than Delroy Lindo’s manic, tortured turn as Paul, a soldier still bearing the scars of war, both foreign and domestic. – MC
3. Promising Young Woman
Carey Mulligan plays against type in this candy colored fable of an avenging angel who goes to nightclubs and pretends to be wasted in order to shame the men who try to take her home and take advantage. It’s an ultra modern take on the rape-revenge subgenre with a very female gaze. Mulligan’s Cassie is a delicate clothes horse with multicolored nails who works in a coffee shop and lives with her parents—her brand of revenge is specific, personal, and highly female.
Despite the dark subject matter, this is an unashamedly fun film (um, until it’s not) with a killer soundtrack. It’s the directorial debut of actor Emerald Fennell (most recently seen playing Camilla in The Crown), who also wrote the picture, and she reveals an extremely distinctive style. A starry supporting cast also deliver uniformly excellent performances, including Bo Burnham, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Adam Brodie, and Alfred Molina, which makes this feel big budget glossy.
But it’s Mulligan’s movie. It’s impossible to take your eyes off her, and she owns the screen as a powerful warrior, a vulnerable soul, and a heroine for our times. – RF
2. The Invisible Man
A Blumhouse redo of a Universal classic from the bloke who wrote Saw, on paper this wouldn’t be an obvious contender for a year-end best list. But then The Invisible Man isn’t an obvious movie. As the last film many saw at the cinema before lockdown landed, The Invisible Man is an incredibly smart take on the H.G. Wells story, which focuses not on the scientist who creates the suit that makes him invisible, but the woman he uses it to terrorize.
He may be “the guy who wrote Saw,” but writer-director Leigh Whannell has proved himself incredibly adept at a certain kind of action/horror with this and Upgrade—both include thrilling sequences of people who aren’t in control of their own bodies. Here it’s Elisabeth Moss who is being stalked by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Whannell uses the conceit to great effect: It’s a movie about gaslighting, which has the audience scanning the peripheries of the scene at all times, keeping us on edge, just like Cece, and wrong footing us all the same.
Top notch performances and serious subject matter handled with panache make this a scary standout for any year. We can’t wait to see what Whannell does with The Wolfman… – RF
1. The Trial of the Chicago 7
“The whole world is watching.” That is the chant shouted throughout Aaron Sorkin’s second directorial effort, The Trial of the Chicago 7, and it echoes in our 2020 ears like the Ghost of Christmas Past. A little more than 50 years ago, the United States government put eight men on trial for protesting the Democratic National Convention—and the Vietnam War its presumptive nominee supported. This legal circus occurred even though the riot that broke out during the protests was started by the police. It would be understatement to note it all plays as eerily prescient today.
Beyond the loaded political subtexts though, the movie’s placement on this list reflects what happens when Sorkin’s screenplays achieve their greatest alchemy: With words being deployed in a courtroom as ruthlessly as batons were on a summer night in Chicago, each dialogue exchange in Chicago 7 is kinetic. The film defies the seemingly stagey quality of its legal setting, and not by just inserting flashbacks to a recreation of the 1968 riots (though they’re here too), but by turning verbose monologues into thrilling set pieces. Defense attorneys duel prosecutors; defendants defy a shockingly biased and corrupt judge; and believers in the system, like Sorkin himself, stare into the abyss of what happens when it fails.
All of these elements amplify the film’s vision of protestors from “the far left” running into the hard wall of mainstream resistance to change. It’s a showcase for Sorkin, his editor Alan Baumgarten, and the whole ensemble, particularly in one grueling sequence between Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale and Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman. The Trial of the Chicago 7 can be horrifying in places, and yet always engrossing. And most miraculously of all, it’s never cynical. That might be why it electrifies most at this moment. – DC
Other movies receiving balloted votes (in descending order): Relic, The News of the World, Uncle Frank, Never Always Sometimes, Class Action Park, Freaky, The Way Back, The Old Guard, Synchronic, The Devil All the Time, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Enola Holmes, Shirley, Unpregnant, Wolfwalkers, Rebecca, On the Rocks, MLK/FBI, Scare Me, The Lodge, Happiest Season, I’m Your Woman, Bill & Ted 3, The Platform, Monsoon, Possessor, Ordinary Love, Miss Juneteenth, Athlete A, How to Build a Girl, The Vast of Night, What the Constitution Means to Me, Muscle, Calm the Horses, Color Out of Space, Eurovision, Another Round, Misbehaviour, The Boys in the Band, Borat 2, Extraction, Midnight Sky, Zappa, The Half of It, Greenland, 7500, Onward, The Wolf of Snow Hollow, The Nest, Bad Hair, Capone, Project Power, New Order, The Gentlemen, Lost Girls, The 40 Year-Old-Version.
Bang Bang Education shared a web design concept for A—Book. Basically the idea was to design a site for searching, reading and listening books. The solution is to bring four key sections of the site to the main screen. So the main screen serves as a navigation through the tabs new, collections, genres and authors, rolling up into a sandwich menu inside each section. For better recognition, genres are color coded, the book receives the color of the genre. Illustration is a main graphic element inside collections, it metaphorically represents the content of a collection. “We also designed the ability to quickly switch between book/audiobook modes while reading or listening” added Anna Prikhodko one of the designers behind the project.