kottke.org posts about Indiana Jones
Erik Vance on why real working archaeologists don't care for Indiana Jones.
"Oh God," he groans, "Don't even go there. Indiana Jones is not an archeologist."
It's not surprising that academics -- hell bent on taking the fun out of everything -- would hate our beloved and iconic movie version of them. But Canuto is no killjoy. His ironic tone and acerbic wit seem honed by long boring days in the sun. So I bite. I quickly learn that there's a good reason why most every archeologist on Earth hates Indy. And that they might have a point. Because Jones isn't an archeologist at all.
"That first scene, where he's in the temple and he's replacing that statue with a bag of sand -- that's what looters do," Canuto says, grinning. "[The temple builders] are using these amazing mechanisms of engineering and all he wants to do is steal the stupid gold statue."
Makes you wonder if Jones was one of the Raiders referred to in the title of the first movie. (via @riondotnu)
This is wonderful: an hour-long PBS documentary from 1981 on the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Lots of behind the scenes footage, interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Ford, etc.
I love how delighted Spielberg is after the idol exchange scene.
Empire asked a group of visual effects specialists about their favorite special effect movie moments...here's what they had to say. Tim Webber (The Dark Knight, Gravity, Children of Men) picked the warehouse scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark:
I love Davy Jones in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and the T-1000 walking out of the flames in Terminator 2, but my pick is the warehouse scene at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. It's just a simple matte painting, not a very complicated visual effects shot, but it was done brilliantly. A lot of the visual effects from that period look terrible now -- there are lines around things or you can see the joins on matte paintings, but that one was immaculate. I was pretty young when I watched it, but I was so impressed by the way it slowly revealed the size of the place. It's not your big, crash-bang-wallop modern visual effects shot but it has real dramatic effect.
Wow. In 1978, George Lucus gathered together Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan to go over ideas for a film Lucas had wanted to make about a swashbuckling archeologist, i.e. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Their sessions were recorded and there's a transcript available online.
Lucas - Now, several aspects that we've discussed before: The image of him which is the strongest image is the "Treasure Of Sierra Madre" outfit, which is the khaki pants, he's got the leather jacket, that sort of felt hat, and the pistol and holster with a World War One sort of flap over it. He's going into the jungle carrying his gun. The other thing we've added to him, which may be fun, is a bull whip. That's really his trade mark. That's really what he's good at. He has a pistol, and he's probably very good at that, but at the same time he happens to be very good with a bull whip. It's really more of a hobby than anything else. Maybe he came from Montana, someplace, and he... There are freaks who love bull whips. They just do it all the time. It's a device that hasn't been used in a long time.
Spielberg - You can knock somebody's belt off and the guys pants fall down.
Lucas - You can swing over things, you can...there are so many things you can do with it. I thought he carried it rolled up. It's like a Samurai sword. He carries it back there and you don't even notice it. That way it's not in the way or anything. It's just there whenever he wants it.
Spielberg - At some point in the movie he must use it to get a girl back who's walking out of the room. Wrap her up and she twirls as he pulls her back. She spins into his arms. You have to use it for more things than just saving himself.
Lucas - We'll have to work that part out. In a way it's important that it be a dangerous weapon. It looks sort of like a snake that's coiled up behind him, and any time it strikes it's a real threat.
Kasdan - Except there has to be that moment when he's alone with a can of beer and he just whips it to him.
Patrick Radden Keefe at the New Yorker read through the whole thing and has some highlights and general thoughts.
Over the intervening decades of enormous wealth and success, both Lucas and Spielberg have carefully tended their public images, so there is a voyeuristic thrill to seeing them converse in so unguarded a manner. As the screenwriters Craig Mazin and John August pointed out recently on the Scriptnotes podcast, one delight of reading the transcript is watching Spielberg throw out bad ideas, and then noting how Lucas gently shuts him down. Spielberg, who had sought to direct a Bond movie-and, astonishingly, been rejected-thought that their hero should be an avid gambler. Lucas replied that perhaps they shouldn't overload him with attributes. (Lucas himself had briefly entertained, then mercifully set aside, the notion that his archaeologist might also be a practitioner of kung fu.) There's a good reason we seldom get to spy on these conversations: really good spitballing, like improv comedy, requires a high degree of social disinhibition. So the writers' room, like a therapist's office, must remain inviolable.
A letter from the chairman of the Committee on Promotion and Tenure at Marshall College outlines the many reasons why they have denied Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr. tenure at the school.
Though the committee may have overstepped the boundaries of its evaluation, I find it pertinent to note that Dr. Jones has been romantically linked to countless women of questionable character, an attribute very unbecoming of a Marshall College professor. One of these women was identified as a notorious nightclub singer whose heart he attempted to extract with his hands, and whom he then tried, and failed, to lower into a lake of magma. Another was a Nazi scholar he was seen courting just last year who, I'm told, plummeted into a fathomless abyss at Dr. Jones's hand. And, of course, no one can forget the slow decline and eventual death of Professor Abner Ravenwood after Dr. Jones's affair with Abner's underage daughter was made public, forcing her to emigrate to Nepal to escape the debacle.
Steven Spielberg is re-releasing Raiders of the Lost Ark in IMAX theaters for a one week engagement in early September.
Mr. Spielberg, who with the sound designer Ben Burtt supervised the conversion of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to Imax, said that no special effects or other visual elements of the film were changed. The audio, he said, had been enhanced for surround sound: "When the boulder is rolling, chasing Indy through the cave, you really feel the boulder in your stomach, the way you do when a marching band passes by, and you're standing right next to it."
All four Jones movies will be out on Blu-ray in mid-September. (via df)
I caught most of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (which might be my favorite Indy movie...I know, the blasphemy!) on TV the other night and was surprised to see how much the movie zeppelin's interior resembles the interior of the Hindenburg.
They did their homework, I guess. Also of note regarding the Hindenburg: the ship was originally designed to use helium but was retooled to use extremely flammable hydrogen when the US banned exports of then-rare helium to Germany.
Despite the danger of using flammable hydrogen, no alternative gases that could provide sufficient lift could be produced in adequate quantities. One beneficial side effect of employing hydrogen was that more passenger cabins could be added. The Germans' long history of flying hydrogen-filled passenger airships without a single injury or fatality engendered a widely held belief they had mastered the safe use of hydrogen. The Hindenburg's first season performance appeared to demonstrate this.
(thx, @katiealender & someone else whose name I misplaced)
Last month, Steven Soderbergh's list of what he's been watching and reading told us that the director watched Raiders of the Lost Ark in black & white three times in one week, presumably to emphasize the film's structure and cinematography. Flavorwire's Jason Bailey wondered what other films might be better in black & white and compiled a list of ten, with video examples and commentary of each. Included are Raiders, Fargo, and A Christmas Story.
Vic Armstrong just published a memoir about his career as a Hollywood stuntman; the LA Times has an excerpt. Armstrong worked as Harrison Ford's double on all three Indiana Jones films...and no wonder, they look amazingly similar:
The next day we shot the fight around the plane. Harrison and Roach squared up to each other and Harrison threw a punch. "That's great. Moving on," said Steven. Now as a stunt co-ordinator my job is to make sure that, on film, those punches look like they've connected. I was standing looking right over the lens of the camera and in my opinion it was a miss. Now I was stuck between a rock and a hard place because Steven had called it good, but I thought I'd better say something. "Excuse me sir, that was actually a miss." He went, "Oh, you again." I said, "Yeah, sorry, it was a miss." Steven paused briefly. "Well, I thought it was a hit." I said, "No, I was actually looking over the lens and it was a miss, I think." Finally Steven said, "OK, we'll do it again." After that take was completed Steven, sarcastically almost, turned to me and said, "How was that?" I went, "That was good. That was a hit." And we carried on and created a great fight routine. Three days later we were all watching dailies when the shot that I'd said was a miss came on screen. Steven had printed it. The old heart started to go, but sure enough it was a miss and Steven, who was right in front of me, turned round and said, "Good call Vic." I couldn't do much wrong after that, it was great.
From an abridged script for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:
PRODUCER FRANK MARSHALL immediately proves his commitment to using CGI "only when necessary" by featuring completely necessary CGI prairie dogs in the first shot of the movie.
A bunch of cars drive through the DESERT to AREA 51. HARRISON FORD'S SHADOW, then HARRISON FORD'S SHOE, then HARRISON FORD'S ARM, then HARRISON FORD'S HAT and finally HARRISON FUCKING FORD are eventually revealed.
Alright folks, let's get this show on the road. I want to make it to Country Buffet by four.
Pryvet, Harrison. I am evil Soviet. You vill help me find Moose and Squirrel, yes?
Holy Christ, you're not going to talk like that the whole movie are you?
Da. You vill help locate MacKuffin now.
Not so long ago, on May 24th, IMDB message board participant beachedblonde coined a new phrase: nuke the fridge. Here's the definition from the Urban Dictionary...it's roughly equivalent to jumping the shark:
A colloquialism used to delineate the precise moment at which a cinematic franchise has crossed over from remote plausibility to self parodying absurdity, usually indicating a low point in the series from which it is unlikely to recover. A reference to one of the opening scenes of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in which the titular hero manages to avoid death by nuclear explosion by hiding inside a kitchen refrigerator.
Man, when Peter Parker started doing the emo dance in Spider-Man 3, that franchise officially nuked the fridge.
Since then, things have progressed quickly. The original posting seems to have been deleted but the phrase caught on, infected other message boards and web sites, and is now a full-blown meme on the verge of nuking the fridge itself. Google currently returns close to 16,000 results for variations on the phrase. Some participants in the IMDB forums have already grown tired of the phrase's repeated use. A Wikipedia page was created and has already been deleted (reason: "Protologism with no RELIABLE sources evidencing more than extremely limited usage"). A web site dedicated to the meme is available at nukingthefridge.com, not to be confused with the movie review blog at nukedthefridge.com. And of course, no meme these days is complete without the proper new media accoutrements: Facebook page, MySpace page, t-shirt, YouTube page, an auction to sell the domain name, and a post on a large-ish general interest blog way after the whole thing's already played out. I only heard it for the first time an hour ago and I'm already sick of it. Memes seem to be spreading so rapidly now on the web that they burn out before they can properly establish themselves. It'll be interesting to see if nuke the fridge makes it through this ultra-virulent phase and somehow slows down enough to jump to casual mainstream usage. (via cyn-c)
Mark Simonson notes that the period typography in the Indiana Jones movies is pretty good, except for that used on Indy's travel maps.
In Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) which is set in 1936, we see ITC Serif Gothic (designed in 1972). The wide spacing feels right, and it does have an art deco feel, but it's 1970s art deco.
If you need a reminder of Harrison Ford's ability to play Indiana Jones after nearly 20 years on the shelf, it comes in the movie's opening scene. Indy is roughly extracted from a car and tumbles to the ground. We see him stumble towards his trademark hat with that walk, a graceful stuttering step, wary of booby traps even on solid ground. Even though the camera shows us only his boots, it's unmistakably Indiana Jones.
That walk is also a signal that Lucas and Spielberg didn't screw this whole thing up...aside from the goofy film title (although having seen the movie, anything else would have ruined the surprise). They didn't take the bait offered by Casino Royale or The Bourne Ultimatum and attempt to shoehorn Dr. Jones into a frenetic, circa-2008 thrill-ride. Oh, there were thrills alright and plenty of swashes were buckled, but this was an action/adventure movie straight out of the 80s. Safe territory for Lucas and Spielberg perhaps, but for someone who believes that the best 80s action adventure movies have something to teach contemporary filmmakers (#1 of a long list: Don't make the special effects the star), the film was a thoroughly enjoyable territory in which to spend an evening. (thx to nextnewnetworks for the ticket hookup)
Title of the upcoming Indiana Jones film: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
Action films tend not to age well. Raiders is a happy exception. Expertly paced, a trait not shared by many contemporary films, action or otherwise.