celebrity shopping

What Director Daniel Kwan Can’t Live Without

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; Illustration: Joe McKendry

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair but the hair spray and the electric toothbrush. We asked co-director of Everything Everywhere All at Once, Daniel Kwan — who just published two children’s picture books with A24, called 24 Minutes to Bedtime! and I’ll Get to the Bottom of This! — about the weighted blanket he doubles up on every night, the toddler alarm clock his 3-year-old can read, and the longboard that’s all but replaced his car. 

This is what I do with every Moleskine. I take the Post-Its and stick them to the cover with gaffer’s tape so everywhere I go, I have them. And if I’m reading a book and there’s something I want to remember, ’cause I don’t like to stop and take notes, I stick in a tab and then I keep going. Then, next time I’m thinking about the book, I can just flip through the tabs and it’s almost like talking to a past version of myself. Like, past me really thought this was interesting. Sometimes I’ll look at a passage and be like, Huh, how quaint, how simpleminded my past self was that he thought this was worth tabbing. When I’m writing a script, I read a lot. I’m a completionist, so I just have to absorb all of the information I need before I can really write something. It’s useful to have bread crumbs that lead me back to things I thought were interesting. As for the Moleskine, I used to be a blank-page guy. But this past notebook refresh, I discovered how much I love the dot matrix. It’s amazing. You get structure if you want it, but open if you don’t. I’m never going back.

The Stojo Cup is great because it’s compactable. You can keep it in your backpack and then when you’re done with it, you just smush it closed again. I love it so much. But honestly, the best thing about it is getting to go to a coffee shop every single morning. My son, who is 3 now, loves to go on walks, and so we go to our local coffee shop, Kumquat, together. For anyone who’s in Highland Park, Los Angeles, where I live, it is incredible. It’s this little Korean coffee shop where everything is so perfectly done. The tea is perfectly steeped, and the coffee just has so much good flavor. But if I got a disposable cup every single day, it would be a lot of waste. This cup is just a small inconvenience to carry around, and hopefully it makes a big impact. I have the medium one in black and this is, like, my third because I keep losing them on set. My son has a mini one, and at Kumquat they’ll take a little milk, steam it, and put some cinnamon on it. So now my kid has training wheels to his coffee addiction.

I’ve had back pain since I was in early high school. I spend way too much time in front of the computer, and I’m also just an anxious human being in general. Before buying this, I was the annoying guy at parties or hangouts who would be like, “Hey, what’s up? Do you want to trade massages?” Because my neck and shoulder pain was so debilitating that I couldn’t think of anything else to do. It was all-consuming. And so, for a while my friends would make fun of me ’cause I was always standing in doorways, rubbing my shoulders up against the corners. Then one day, someone said I should get a massage hook. It’s not perfect, but it’s enough for me to be able to have a little agency in my life. I’m able to just go away for, like, ten minutes and do a little bit on each side. I go really hard. It’s kind of gross. You can hear the muscles breaking down. I literally cannot live without it. Even right now, talking about it is giving me this withdrawal feeling where I feel like I need to be working on my neck. The cool thing is there’s all sorts of knobs, so you can do other things. Sometimes I’ll do the ball of my foot. It’s surprisingly well designed, at least for my body. Everyone’s body is different.

When your kid no longer has a crib, they can just get up and leave whenever they want to. The Mella clock is a simple idea, just a clock with a face on it that turns green when it’s time for you to wake up and you can go bother your parents. You can set it so that half an hour before, it turns yellow so that kids can get prepped for it. They know that it’s almost time. My son has named the clock Oat because it’s shaped like a little oat. So we say, “Is Oat green?” and he says no, and he has to go back to bed or to his room and wait. It’s such a small thing, but it makes a huge difference.

You know when you go to the dentist and they’re about to give you an X-ray, and they put the lead thing on you — I always look forward to that moment. And one day I asked myself why that is? If you look up the science behind a weighted blanket, it’s simulating a human hug and it gives you all the same endorphins that human touch would give you. So I went out and ordered a 20-pound Hush blanket and I immediately loved it. It feels like I am in the womb again. That’s kind of what you’re trying to re-create, you know, when you wrap yourself up in it. And the embarrassing thing is, again, I am so anxious. I’m so bad at sleeping, I’m so bad at staying asleep, that I got a second blanket. So I have two 20-pound blankets because they don’t make anything more than 20 pounds. And I stack them on top of each other. Every night, I have 40 pounds of weight on my body. It feels great. My wife weighs about 90 pounds, so she’s horrified by it. But oftentimes, for people with ADHD, because we’re hyperactive, weighted blankets tend to be pretty common in our community. It’s really hard when I go to hotels because it’s a pain in the ass to carry around, honestly. You don’t wanna carry that with you on a plane, obviously. So that’s tough.

During the pandemic, like everyone else, I needed to find a way to get out, and so I picked up longboarding and skateboarding. I’d never done it in my entire life. I’m such an inept physical human being. I’ve never been good at sports. And because of that I was always ashamed of trying things. But as an adult, I’m way more confident and I don’t mind sucking at stuff. Jeff, who runs Pantheon, has the world record for long-distance longboarding, and he designed this board to be as low as possible, which gives you a lot of stability. He also made it so that you can have the biggest wheels possible so that you can roll over any bumps or whatever. And then, on top of all that, normally longboards have reverse kingpin trucks, which are way more stable, but he decided to add traditional kingpin trucks, which are like what you would have on a normal skateboard. So it’s stable and playful and I can take it anywhere, and I barely drive anymore, which is great. It’s such a well-designed board that early on in my learning process, I skated 30 miles in one day just to see how far I could go. I went from Santa Monica down to Redondo and then back in a single day. I get a lot of joy out of it, which is something that, you know, I’m looking for all the time. It’s my little revolt against the car culture here, and I feel like I’ve become way more of an advocate of street policy in L.A. I really think that it’s made me happier and healthier. And it’s better for the environment. That’s very exciting to me.

Is this a super-lame thing to put on my list? My dad was really into PC, so we had a lot of PC games growing up. When I fell in love with films I took seven, eight, nine years off of video games. Then, when I came back to playing them, it was incredible because the technology had shifted. People joke that this is how some men keep in touch with one another. We don’t call one another to catch up and say, “Hey, how are you doing?” Instead we set a playdate and we all have our headsets on and it becomes like a little conference-call-type thing where we’re playing whatever multiplayer game and catching up on one another’s lives. I have a bunch of director friends, and we’ve been playing the same video game for like four or five years now. It’s so embarrassing because the game has really, um, fallen off in the past year — it’s Overwatch. But we played Overwatch from beta, when it first came out. It’s definitely petered out this year ’cause I have not had any time to play at all. But it’s like our version of a pickup basketball thing we do every week. It’s very social and fun and you just get to hang out. None of us are good at video games, but it doesn’t matter.

This is one of the things I’m most excited to talk about because it really is one of my favorite purchases I’ve made in the past couple years. I love walking around Highland Park and looking at all of them. Anytime I see one, I have to stop and look at what they have. I’ve taught my son to get interested in seeing books this way. Because he’s a pandemic kid, he thought this is what a real library was for a long time. We’ve had ours for a few years now, and it’s never been empty. Most of the time, it’s not because of us. To me, that is a beautiful reminder of just how easy passive community can be. We live next to a college, and so we’re always seeing people shuffle through it. It’s such a regenerative thing and such a small slice of what a beautiful socialist utopia could be. If a book has been in there for too long, I’ll take it out and I’ll go on a walk and I’ll trade it with someone else’s. It feels like we’re communicating without ever actually meeting each other.

A much older version of this guitar was a gift from my mother when I was in high school. So I’ve had it for almost two decades now. I started playing with her guitar. She had this really old, from the ’70s, classical guitar that was just terrible. It probably cost like ten bucks and never stayed in tune. The action was so stiff that it was impossible to learn on. So for my birthday, she got me this guitar, which was a really great gift. I was not a good musician. I still am not a good musician. But I was very passionate about it. And honestly, as a kid, a black matte acoustic guitar was just so sexy to me. With guitars, you want to get a full body sound, meaning that the wood is made from one entire piece to get the best resonance. Cheaper guitars come from many different pieces and you can feel it. This guitar kind of hacked things because it’s a composite material. It imitates a full-body sound without actually having to have the expensive materials. I have it hanging from my bedroom wall and it is still some of the best therapy. I haven’t tried the newer, not-discontinued version. But it is made of the same composite material.

I think about attention a lot because of my ADHD, and I think about things through a memetic lens: how ideas filter through other things. These two guys, Aza Rakin and Tristan Harris, started an organization called the Center for Humane Technology. They’re the ones who made The Social Dilemma documentary. They realized a few years back what technology was doing to the world. Not just because of the way our attention’s been fractured, but also just the polarization and spread of misinformation that happens when you optimize algorithms for engagement and how that is basically accidentally triggering our lizard brains to constantly put us in fight or flight mode. They have people on their podcast who have these wonderful, thoughtful solutions and ideas that I’m really excited about. My friends are so sick of me talking about this stuff, but this is what I spend a lot of my time thinking about.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

What Director Daniel Kwan Can’t Live Without