I had just started a job as The Wall Street Journal's national affairs reporter. My wife, Cornelia, a former journalist, was home with him -- a new story every day, a new horror. He could barely use a sippy cup, though he'd long ago graduated to a big-boy cup. He wove about like someone walking with his eyes shut. "It doesn't make sense," I'd say at night. "You don't grow backward." Had he been injured somehow when he was out of our sight, banged his head, swallowed something poisonous? It was like searching for clues to a kidnapping.
After visits to several doctors, we first heard the word "autism." Later, it would be fine-tuned to "regressive autism," now affecting roughly a third of children with the disorder. Unlike the kids born with it, this group seems typical until somewhere between 18 and 36 months -- then they vanish. Some never get their speech back. Families stop watching those early videos, their child waving to the camera. Too painful. That child's gone.
But a tenuous connection remained between Owen and his pre-autistic self: Disney movies. And through them, Owen slowly learns how to communicate with the outside world again.
So we join him upstairs, all of us, on a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon in November 1994. Owen is already on the bed, oblivious to our arrival, murmuring gibberish.... "Juicervose, juicervose." It is something we've been hearing for the past few weeks. Cornelia thinks maybe he wants more juice; but no, he refuses the sippy cup. "The Little Mermaid" is playing as we settle in, propping up pillows. We've all seen it at least a dozen times, but it's at one of the best parts: where Ursula the sea witch, an acerbic diva, sings her song of villainy, "Poor Unfortunate Souls," to the selfish mermaid, Ariel, setting up the part in which Ursula will turn Ariel into a human, allowing her to seek out the handsome prince, in exchange for her voice.
When the song is over, Owen lifts the remote. Hits rewind.
"Come on, Owen, just let it play!" Walt moans. But Owen goes back just 20 seconds or so, to the song's next-to-last stanza, with Ursula shouting:
Go ahead -- make your choice!
I'm a very busy woman, and I haven't got all day.
It won't cost much, just your voice!
He does it again. Stop. Rewind. Play. And one more time. On the fourth pass, Cornelia whispers, "It's not 'juice.' " I barely hear her. "What?" "It's not 'juice.' It's 'just' ... 'just your voice'!"
I grab Owen by the shoulders. "Just your voice! Is that what you're saying?!"
He looks right at me, our first real eye contact in a year. "Juicervose! Juicervose! Juicervose!"
Walt starts to shout, "Owen's talking again!" A mermaid lost her voice in a moment of transformation. So did this silent boy. "Juicervose! Juicervose! Juicervose!" Owen keeps saying it, watching us shout and cheer. And then we're up, all of us, bouncing on the bed. Owen, too, singing it over and over -- "Juicervose!" -- as Cornelia, tears beginning to fall, whispers softly, "Thank God, he's in there."
This is the best thing I've read in a month, so so heartbreaking and amazing. Just pre-ordered the book...can't wait to read the full version.
If you're having Downton Abbey withdrawals, may I suggest Robert Altman's Gosford Park? Written by Downton creator Julian Fellowes, it's a proto-Downton of sorts: lots of upstairs/downstairs with a dash of mystery. And the cast! Clive Owen, Emily Watson, Stephen Fry, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillippe...and Maggie Smith plays a witty countess.
You find it at the bottom of movie posters and often at the end of movie trailers. In an Op-Art piece from last year, Ben Schott explains how the billing block is carefully constructed with information from contracts and legal agreements.
The content, order and format of the billing block are governed by two things: personal service contracts with cast and crew, and industrywide agreements with professional guilds -- notably the Directors Guild of America (D.G.A.) and the Writers Guild of America (W.G.A.). Thus, while some elements of the billing block remain consistent, others depend of the type of film and on individual negotiations. That said, there has been a marked inflation in billing block credits. An "Ocean's 11" poster from 1960 credited just three noncast individuals; the 2001 remake poster credited, coincidentally, 11.
In a lovely short film, Ilinca Calugareanu explores the world of 1980s black market VHS movies in Communist Romania and finds the woman who did all the dubbed dialogue.
All the dialogue on these movies was dubbed into Romanian in a husky, high-pitched woman's voice. Throughout my childhood, these films provided a glimpse into the forbidden West, resplendent with blue jeans, Coke and skyscrapers. As Hollywood movies became ubiquitous through the black market, this voice became one of the most recognizable in Romania. Yet no one knew who she was.
I would place some of the elements in Jonze's depiction at around 2020, give or take a couple of years, such as the diffident and insulting videogame character he interacts with, and the pin-sized cameras that one can place like a freckle on one's face. Other elements seem more like 2014, such as the flat-panel displays, notebooks and mobile devices.
Samantha herself I would place at 2029, when the leap to human-level AI would be reasonably believable. There are some incongruities, however. As I mentioned, a lot of the dramatic tension is provided by the fact that Theodore's love interest does not have a body. But this is an unrealistic notion. It would be technically trivial in the future to provide her a virtual visual presence to match her virtual auditory presence, using, lens-mounted displays, for example, that display images onto Theodore's retinas.
According to Jonze in interviews, Kurzweil's work on the singularity was a definite influence on the movie.
ps. The links to Amazon include my affiliates code...proceeds from purchases made through those links will be matched by me and will be donated to the Labyrinth Theater Company, which Hoffman co-founded and where he served as creative director for many years.
In an interview with an Australian radio station, Arcade Fire's Win Butler said that the music on the Her movie soundtrack will see an official release in some form. Here's what Butler said about it:
We're just slow as a band. The music will get out there, it's just, like, a question of if we want to sell it to people or give to people or record other songs or whatever. There are many pieces on the soundtrack that are kind of based on actual songs that we've never really recorded. Yeah, there's a song called Milk and Honey and a song called Dimensions that are, like, lost great Arcade Fire songs. They are actually just things that, like, fit the world of the movie and then we kind of wrote them to the film.
That's good news! Here's the whole interview (they start talking about Her at 15:40):
According to Spike Jonze, there might not be an official release of the soundtrack for Her (performed by Arcade Fire), but the whole thing is somehow currently on the internet for your listening pleasure:
Update: Win Butler of Arcade Fire now says the Her soundtrack will be released in some form eventually.
Because the film is a period piece, The Godfather actually presents a fascinating record of what 1940s-era New York City locations still existed in the early-1970s. Sadly, many of them are now gone. What still remains? Let's take a closer look.
Ludwig: Our biggest cost was getting film. Film comes in 1,000-foot loads and 400-foot loads. On a big movie, they'll throw away the end of the film, like the last hundred feet or so.
Liman: We shot most of the movie with these 100-foot short ends. It's a minute of film. Which also meant the actors could get through 60 seconds of a scene and I'd have to call reload.
Wurmfeld: I cultivated a lot of relationships with the people around town selling short ends.
LaLoggia: I called this place in L.A. that does recycled, re-canned short ends and I just begged for the cheapest price we could get. (Many of the short ends came from the movie Twister.)
Liman: The problem with shooting on short ends, though, is that it takes four minutes to reload a conventional camera. I thought to myself: We'll never get through the movie if we shoot a minute, spend four minutes reloading, shoot a minute, spend four minutes reloading. You'll never get any kind of rhythm going. So I decided I would shoot the movie with this documentary 35-millimeter film camera that was not designed to shoot dialogue because it sounds like a sewing machine.
Ludwig: The camera was much louder than a regular camera that you'd use for a feature film. But it's easy to load and very compact. I think it was developed so Godard could have a camera that would fit into his bicycle basket.
Liman: To absorb the sound, I would take my down jacket and put it over the camera and then take the two arms and tie them together underneath the lens. And then my comforter would just get wrapped around the whole thing once. Jon would describe it like he was acting in front of a big, fluffy snowball. But I really think that as insane as that setup was, it created a really safe environment for the actors. Vince really did some extraordinary things, like the scene where he's supposed to be drunk and he jumps up on the table. You know, he had to do that in front of a lot of people and I feel like they looked at me and they were like, Doug is clearly not being self-conscious.
Favreau: There was never enough time and never enough film.
Liman: Every day we'd panic because I was shooting more film than I thought I was gonna shoot and we didn't have enough film and we didn't have any money.
LaLoggia: I used to hide film in the trunk of my car because Doug could not help himself. He just wanted to shoot, shoot, shoot, so we would lie to him and say that we were out of film.
Whenever we needed money, we'd rob the airport. To us, it was better than Citibank.
So said Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in GoodFellas. Now, more than twenty-five years after the Lufthansa heist that was fictionalized in Martin Scorsese's movie, the FBI has arrested five mobsters in connection with that crime and a list of other jobs that "reads like a greatest hits collection of the Mafia: armored truck heists, murder, attempted murder, extortion and bookmaking."
Well lookie here, a restored full-length version of Stanley Kubrick's very first film, 1953's Fear and Desire, has popped up on YouTube:
Kubrick famously disliked his first film. From a 1994 episode of All Things Considered:
D'Arcy: But Stanley Kubrick hates the film and to keep it off the screen he threatened Film Forum with copyright violations, even though Fear and Desire is in the public domain. Through a Warner Brothers' publicist, Kubrick called his first feature 'a bumbling amateur film exercise'.
Goldstein: Kubrick had Warner Brothers send a letter out to all the press in town saying that the picture was boring and pretentious and of course, that only drew more attention to it. So it now, now it really is a must see, because now it's the picture Kubrick wants to suppress. So that makes it even sexier as a box office attraction. So I think he's increased our attendance four-fold.
Basketball fanatics Steve James, Frederick Marx, and Peter Gilbert originally set out to make Hoop Dreams as a half-hour doc for PBS that would focus on the culture surrounding streetball. But as quickly as they got on the blacktop, they left it. The dreams of their subjects, Arthur Agee and William Gates, were too grand for just the playground, and instantly, the filmmakers were immersed in the young men's lives, showcasing both the good and bad.
Twenty years after the film premiered at Sundance and was awarded the festival's Audience Award, it's grown into an iconic work. Its snub in the Best Documentary category at the 67th Academy Awards in 1995 led to changes in the voting process. NBA players treat the movie as their own life story. It's been added to the Library Of Congress' National Film Registry. And when looking back on the film's 15th anniversary, Roger Ebert declared it "the great American documentary."
Currently out in theaters is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig. The film is based on a short story of the same name by James Thurber, first published in the New Yorker in 1939 and available to read for free on their website.
"We're going through!" The Commander's voice was like thin ice breaking. He wore his full-dress uniform, with the heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray eye. "We can't make it, sir. It's spoiling for a hurricane, if you ask me." "I'm not asking you, Lieutenant Berg," said the Commander. "Throw on the power lights! Rev her up to 8,500! We're going through!" The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. The Commander stared at the ice forming on the pilot window. He walked over and twisted a row of complicated dials. "Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!" he shouted. "Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!" repeated Lieutenant Berg. "Full strength in No. 3 turret!" shouted the Commander. "Full strength in No. 3 turret!" The crew, bending to their various tasks in the huge, hurtling eight-engined Navy hydroplane, looked at each other and grinned. "The Old Man'll get us through," they said to one another. "The Old Man ain't afraid of Hell!" ...
12 O'Clock Boys is a documentary about an Baltimore dirt-bike gang.
Pug, a wisecracking 13 year old living on a dangerous Westside block, has one goal in mind: to join The Twelve O'Clock Boys; the notorious urban dirt-bike gang of Baltimore. Converging from all parts of the inner city, they invade the streets and clash with police, who are forbidden to chase the bikes for fear of endangering the public. When Pug's older brother dies suddenly, he looks to the pack for mentorship, spurred by their dangerous lifestyle.
Story finds Lipsky accompanying Wallace across the country on a book tour promoting "Infinite Jest," just as Wallace starts to become famous. Along the way, jealousy and competition bubbles up between the two writers as they discuss women, depression and the pros and cons of fame.
Reaction from the DFW fan club abut Segel playing DFW has been tepid, to say the least.
Using a black & white workprint of The Dark Crystal that Jim Henson and Frank Oz wanted to release, YouTube user scoodidabop made a full-length director's cut of the film. It's a bit rough in spots, but the original vision is all there.
In a masterfully edited video, David Ehrlich presents his 25 favorite films of 2013.
Fantastic. This video makes me want to stop what I'm doing and watch movies for a week. It's a good year for it apparently...both Tyler Cowen and Bruce Handy argue that 2013 is an exceptional year for movies. I'm still fond of 1999... (via @brillhart)
But one of the most unusual things about Katniss isn't the way she defies typical gender roles for heroines, but the way Peeta, her arena partner and one of her two love interests, defies typical Hollywood versions of gender roles for boyfriends.
Consider the evidence: Peeta's family runs a bakery. He can literally bake a cherry pie, as the old song says.
He is physically tough, but markedly less so than she is. He's got a good firm spine, but he lacks her disconnected approach to killing. Over and over, she finds herself screaming "PEETA!", not calling for help but going to help, and then running, because he's gone and done some damn fool thing like gotten himself electrocuted.
Forcing Katniss to choose is forcing Katniss into monogamy, and as I suggested above, into doing gender to complement her partner. Victoria Robinson points out in her article, "My Baby Just Cares for Me," that monogamy compels women to invest too much time, energy, and resources into an individual man and limits their autonomy and relationships with others. What Robinson doesn't talk about is how it also limits women's range of how they might do gender in relationship to others.
It also limits men's range of doing gender in relationships. Wouldn't it be nice if Peeta and Gale never felt the pressure to be something they are not? Imagine how Peeta's and Gale's masculinities would have to be reconfigured to accommodate and accept each other?
Maybe this is why the end of Catching Fire (minor spoilers!) -- Katniss as the cliched irrational hysterical woman who can't be trusted with information -- felt so out of place compared to her gender fluidity throughout the rest of the movie.
Right now, the brothers are plainly excited about what they're writing, which they proudly explain, is set in ancient Rome. It's the allure of the unexpected, all over again.
"It's like: Would you ever do a sandal movie?" laughs Joel. "It's big," says Ethan, grinning. "We're interested in the big questions. And we don't (expletive) around with subtext. This one especially."
Though their movies usually revel in the absurdity of life's predicaments, Ethan promises this film has answers: "It's not like our piddly 'A Serious Man.'" Chimes Joel: "That was a cop-out. We just totally chickened out on that one."
LIFE ITSELF, the first ever feature-length documentary on the life of Roger Ebert, covers the prolific critic's life journey from his days at the University of Illinois, to his move to Chicago where he became the first film critic ever to win the Pulitzer Prize, then to television where he and Gene Siskel became iconic stars, and finally to what Roger referred to as "his third act"; how he overcame disabilities wrought by cancer to became a major voice on the internet and through social media.
Director Steve James (HOOP DREAMS) has conducted interviews with over two dozen people, including lifelong friends, professional colleagues, the first ever interview with Gene Siskel's wife, and filmmakers Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, Ramin Bahrani, Gregory Nava, Ava DuVernay, and Martin Scorsese, who is one of the executive producers along with Steven Zaillian.
[Mild spoilers] During the production of Gravity, Jonas Cuaron (co-writer of the screenplay and Alfonso Cuaron's son) shot a short film that shows the other side of the conversation that Sandra Bullock's character had while in the Soyuz capsule. In the film, an Inuit fisherman struggles to communicate with the distressed voice on the other end of his radio.
The short was filmed "guerrilla style" on location on a budget of about $100,000 -- most of which went toward the 10-person crew's travel costs -- and Cuaron completed it in time to meld the dialogue into Gravity's final sound mix. The result is a seamless conversation between Aningaaq and Ryan, stranded 200 miles above him, the twin stories of isolated human survival providing thematic cohesion. Still, Jonas says he was careful "to make it a piece that could stand on its own." Should both get Oscar noms, an interesting dynamic would emerge: Two films potentially could win for representing different sides of one conversation, to say nothing of having come from father and son.
Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan) has made a movie called Noah, about Noah's ark. It stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins. Here's the trailer:
He has other houses. He has one, famously, on Lake Como, in Italy, and he has built another in Cabo. In this, he is not so much of a throwback-after all, Leonardo DiCaprio has a house in Cabo. Indeed, Clooney and DiCaprio once ran into each other in Cabo and struck up a conversation based on their common interest in basketball. They each have ongoing games, and their ongoing games have attained a celebrity of their own. Clooney suggested they might play someday. DiCaprio said sure, but felt compelled to add, "You know, we're pretty serious."
They played at a neighborhood court. "You know, I can play," Clooney says in his living room. "I'm not great, by any means, but I played high school basketball, and I know I can play. I also know that you don't talk shit unless you can play. And the thing about playing Leo is you have all these guys talking shit. We get there, and there's this guy, Danny A I think his name is. Danny A is this club kid from New York. And he comes up to me and says, 'We played once at Chelsea Piers. I kicked your ass.' I said, 'I've only played at Chelsea Piers once in my life and ran the table. So if we played, you didn't kick anybody's ass.' And so then we're watching them warm up, and they're doing this weave around the court, and one of the guys I play with says, 'You know we're going to kill these guys, right?' Because they can't play at all. We're all like fifty years old, and we beat them three straight: 11-0, 11-0, 11-0. And the discrepancy between their game and how they talked about their game made me think of how important it is to have someone in your life to tell you what's what. I'm not sure if Leo has someone like that."
Pupils at Hogwarts have access to a reasonably wide range of esoteric qualifications, suited to its key demographic. As an independent school, it does not have to follow the National Curriculum closely; however, it is disappointing to note that basic requirements such as English, Mathematics and Religious Education are all lacking or entirely missing from the school's syllabus. This has had adverse effects on all students, many of whom have never even been taught basic KS1 or 2 literacy. A few students have attended state or independent primary schools, and these students typically perform very well in contrast to their peers.
The majority of students appear to be under-performing, with most pupils struggling in all their lessons, most of which appear to be set at too challenging a level. One particular class, which seemed to be based on A-Level chemistry, proved too difficult for even the most proficient students. Only one pupil managed to complete the lesson objectives, mainly thanks to his use of an annotated text book.
Some Hollywood people are making a Lego movie called The Lego Movie. Batman's in it and the plot is from The Matrix. I can't decide if it looks horrible or amazing.
An ordinary guy named Emmet (Chris Pratt) is mistaken as being the Master Builder, the one who can save the Lego universe. With the aid of an old mystic named Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a tough young lady named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and Batman (Will Arnett), Emmet will fight to defeat the evil tyrant Lord Business (Will Ferrell) who is bent on destroying the Lego universe by gluing it together.
The Wikipedia page notes The Lego Movie Video Game will be released in conjunction with the movie. Which, if you're following along, is a video game based on a movie based on stacking toys & figures containing characters based on other movies that are based on comic books. I can't wait for The Lego Movie Videogame Comic Book Movie that comes out in 2019.
Nestled in the midst of Matt Zoller Seitz's video essay on Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is this bombshell: the movie contains a Star Wars reference no one seems to have noticed. Seitz synced the scenes for us:
There have to be others, right? Many of Anderson's films end with all of the characters gathered together like at the medals ceremony in Episode IV...someone even synced up the end of the movie with the closing credits music from Zissou and it works really well:
Vsevolod Pudovkin was a Soviet film director who developed influential theories of film editing. In this 12-minute video, Evan Richards uses clips from films like 2001, Lawrence of Arabia, and The Godfather to illustrate Pudovkin's editing techniques.
The most instructive book on film aesthetics I came across was Pudovkin's Film Technique, which simply explained that editing was the aspect of film art form which was completely unique, and which separated it from all other art forms. The ability to show a simple action like a man cutting wheat from a number of angles in a brief moment, to be able to see it in a special way not possible except through film -- that this is what it was all about. This is obvious, of course, but it's so important it cannot be too strongly stressed. Pudovkin gives many clear examples of how good film editing enhances a scene, and I would recommend his book to anyone seriously interested in film technique.
There are few perfect movies. This is one of them.
The book and video essays came about because Anderson saw Seitz's earlier video essay series, The Substance of Style, an examination of Anderson's stylistic influences. Great resource for fans of Anderson and film.
Kumar Pallana, one of Wes Anderson's cast of regulars, has died at age 94. Pallana appears as Kumar in Bottle Rocket, Mr. Littlejeans in Rushmore, and as Pagoda in The Royal Tenenbaums.
Pallana led a massively interesting life before hitting the big screen at nearly 80. Born in colonial India, he lived all around the world, and first made a name for himself as an entertainer in America in the 1950s. Back then he was known as Kumar Of India, and his specialty was spinning plates-he even appeared on Captain Kangaroo in 1961. (Other feats included magic, balancing, swordplay, and juggling-you can see him do a handstand in The Royal Tenenbaums.)
The Wes Anderson Collection is the first in-depth overview of Anderson's filmography, guiding readers through his life and career. Previously unpublished photos, artwork, and ephemera complement a book-length conversation between Anderson and award-winning critic Matt Zoller Seitz. The interview and images are woven together in a meticulously designed book that captures the spirit of his films: melancholy and playful, wise and childish -- and thoroughly original.
Vulture has an excerpt of the chapter on The Royal Tenenbaums.
Q: Gene Hackman - it was always your dream for him to play Royal?
A: It was written for him against his wishes.
Q: I'm gathering he was not an easy person to get.
A: He was difficult to get.
Q: What were his hesitations? Did he ever tell you?
A: Yeah: no money. He's been doing movies for a long time, and he didn't want to work sixty days on a movie. I don't know the last time he had done a movie where he had to be there for the whole movie and the money was not good. There was no money. There were too many movie stars, and there was no way to pay. You can't pay a million dollars to each actor if you've got nine movie stars or whatever it is - that's half the budget of the movie. I mean, nobody's going to fund it anymore, so that means it's scale.
That's right, Gene Hackman (and probably the rest of them as well) worked for scale on The Royal Tenenbaums.
Anderson also talks about the scene in The Darjeeling Limited where they show everyone on the train:
Q: When you turn to reveal the tiger, what is that, the other side of the train?
A: No, it's all one car. We gutted a car, and that is a fake forest that we built on the train, and it is a Jim Henson creature on our train car. The whole thing is one take, and I think because we did it that way, while we were doing it, we did feel this electricity, you know? There's tension in it because it's all real. Fake but real. I mean, that was the idea. The emotion of it, well -- there's nothing really happening in the scene, you know? They just kind of sit there, but it was a real thing that was happening. But I did at the time have this feeling like "I don't know."
About 8,000 years ago, maize was cultivated from teosinte, a wild grass that doesn't look much like the modern corn we know today. Popcorn -- a name mostly associated with puffed kernels of corn -- is actually a strain of corn, characterized by especially starchy kernels with hard kernel walls, which help internal pressure build when placed over heat. It was one of the first variations of maize cultivated in Central America. "Popcorn went north and it went south, but as far as I can see, it really only survived in South America," says Andrew Smith, author of Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn. Eventually, trade and commerce brought the unique kernels northward. "Most likely, North American whalers went to Chile, found varieties of popcorn, picked them up and thought that they were cute, and brought them back to New England in the early 19th century," Smith explains.
Because I like and respect Jason Kottke, I'm taking this opportunity to express a contrary viewpoint on a documentary he reviewed not two days ago, Rodney Ascher's "Room 237".
Before I forget, happy birthday, Jason.
Now, what I suspect has happened here is that both he and our friend John Gruber, whose tweet spurred Jason's post, sort of missed the point. Which is that the film's ambition was not to cast light on the conspiracy theories around their beloved Kubrick film ("The Shining", in case you're coming to this late), it was not to document further context around the film or to disclose any of its master filmmaker's process or intentions, but rather to paint an artful picture--a media collage if you will-of obsession, and mania.
But "Room 237" isn't about "The Shining" or about Kubrick, it's about a small assortment of unrelated film scholars(?) who have selected "The Shining" as their thing. It's about the degree of their obsessions, the intricacies of their fixations.
Or rather, it's not about the people, it's about the infatuation. Watching the film, you'll notice fairly quickly that the filmmakers have made the unique and brilliant choice to never show the theorists' faces on-camera. All we know of them is their voices and their theories. This was at once a respectful and calculated choice. Respectful in that it protects the interviewees from some of the involuntary judgments we the audience will tend to make when given the benefit of someone's physical appearance. And calculated in that presenting the subjects in audio only frees the viewer from the distraction of a fully fleshed-out human connection. Sure, we can extrapolate character and make judgments based on vocal tone and demographic (not to mention the content of the speech). But the main focus is on the visualizations themselves, which are nightmarishly brilliant.
What we have in the supporting media is a mashup of Kubrickian archive, bizarro warpy analog synth music, some digital wizardy, and old dollar-bin stock footage, all coming together to form a spooky dream fort -- a haunted factory built of unfamiliar nostalgia.
You know that psychological effect that has no name, when you used to find an old VHS tape in the back of the cabinet, one that your family would use to record TV shows a decade before, and you'd play it, only to find that the commercials were still intact? Remember that creepy, kind of gross but comfortable remembrance? That's what "Room 237" has in spades.
I have a unique (or at least memorable) story of my first viewing of "The Shining". Short version: impacted largely by the medium through which I viewed it, the movie scared the living piss out of me. But I'm willing to put a stake in the ground and say that as scary as "The Shining" is to me, "Room 237" is even scarier. Not because I believe any of the conspiracy theories to be true, but because our minds are capable of manufacturing them.
The documentary Room 237 doesn't sound like it's about any of the things I like about Stanley Kubrick's films, especially The Shining. But Stephen King reminds us that he doesn't like The Shining either, and for better reasons than novelists usually give when talking about movies based on their books:
Shelley Duvall as Wendy is really one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film, she's basically just there to scream and be stupid and that's not the woman that I wrote about.
Wendy's best moments in the film are when she's not that thing, but yeah, she's mostly that thing.
But at the same time King is bothered by one of the things that is actually super-distinctive and weirdly compelling about Kubrick, fucked up as that dude clearly was:
I'm not a cold guy. I think one of the things people relate to in my books is this warmth, there's a reaching out and saying to the reader, "I want you to be a part of this." With Kubrick's The Shining I felt that it was very cold, very "We're looking at these people, but they're like ants in an anthill, aren't they doing interesting things, these little insects."
So wait, why is Stephen King talking about The Shining? Because he has a sequel to the book, just out today, called Doctor Sleep. It's about Daniel Torrance, the little boy from the novel. It follows him through his childhood, and now he's all grown up.
Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father's legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant "shining" power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes "Doctor Sleep."
"Aided by a prescient cat"! Oh, whoever at Studio Ghibli becomes the anointed heir of Hayao Miyazaki, please give us a warm, weird, spooky film version of this. This book trailer isn't doing it for me.
King's BBC interview is better. Besides Kubrick's movie, he talks about how The Shining was in retrospect a way for him to autobiographically work through his own drinking problems and resentment for literary fiction.
John Gruber's tweet last night reminded me I'd never written up a review for Room 237, the documentary about Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Gruber writes:
Broke down and watched "Room 237". It was bad. Really bad. Boring bad. Crazy people.
Just watch "The Shining" again instead.
I agree. I watched it earlier this year and disliked the film so much, I didn't even finish it, which is rare for me. As I hinted at on Twitter, I'm exposed to enough anti-vaccine, anti-evolution, anti-anthropogenic climate change, anti-science, and religious fundamentalist "theories" in my day-to-day reading that are genuinely harmful to humanity that an examination of how the minds of conspiracy theory crackpots take the smallest little details and weave them into fantastical stories that make no sense is not how I want to spend my time.
As if to underscore my dislike of the film, the following arrived in my inbox shortly after I watched it.
To: Jason Kottke <email@example.com>
Prospective Story: Re: Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining"
i'm not good at salesmanship so i'll get right to the point. i've solved the mystery of room 237 in stanley kubrick's 'the shining' i'm shopping this information to various media sources. here's the deal:
*** the price is $13,000.00
*** i'm aware of the documentaries, the scholarly analyses and the terrabytes of web space dedicated to the topic
*** nobody has gottten it right
*** i guarantee satisfaction
*** there's no risk. either you think the solution to the greatest cinematic mystery of all time is worth 13k or you don't. all i require beforehand is a conditional agreement protecting me from ip theft
*** i remain anonymous. once the transaction is complete the information is yours. i don't care who receives credit or what you do with it
it's been over 30 years. this information should be public. YOU can be the first.
i look forward to your response
Putting on my tin foil hat for a minute, DONT YOU SHEEPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS? That someone is watching what I'm watching! How did this person know I had just watched Room 237?! I bet it's the NSA! Or something! They are watching for people with large audiences to plant lies about Kubrick to deflect attention away from the faked Moon landing! For some reason! THIS IS THE PROOF WEVE BEEN WAITING FOR!??
The Other F Word is a 2011 documentary about how punk rockers and other countercultural figures made the transition from anti-authoritarianism to parenthood. Features members from Devo, NOFX, Black Flag, Rancid, and also pro skater Tony Hawk. Here's the trailer:
To be sure, watching foul-mouthed, colorfully inked musicians attempt to fit themselves into Ward Cleaver's smoking jacket provides for some consistently hilarious situational comedy, but the film's deeper delving into a whole generation of artists clumsily making amends for their own absentee parents could strike a resonant note with anyone (punk or not) who's stumbled headfirst into family life.
The Art of the Title chats with the excellent Jessica Hische about the lettering and type design she did for Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom.
To me, that was really fun because if you think about New England in the '60s... it's not like most places would be staying on top of the most current trends in type, using typefaces that were released that very year. So, using something from the '40s made sense to me. If you think about a small, conservative New England town, lord knows all the printers and designers in town are probably still using type from years ago. I think when people think about historical type references, they often don't think about that. You should be reaching from that time period to 15 - 20 years earlier and then you'll be getting stuff that's quote-unquote "current."
And she's releasing the typeface commercially so everyone can use it! Yay!
Centuries later, the animals from Brave that have been experimented on by the witch have interbred, creating a large-scale population of animals slowly gaining personification and intelligence on their own.
There are two progressions: the progression of the animals and the progression of artificial intelligence. The events of the following movies set up a power struggle between humans, animals, and machines.
The stage for all-out war in regards to animals is set by Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, and Up, in that order. Notice I left out A Bug's Life, but I'll explain why later.
Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt's story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry's gets underway.
If you've watched a movie in the past 20 years, chances are you've seen the animation featuring the Pixar logo and Luxo Jr., the company's mascot. Luxo hops in, squashes the I, and takes its place; here's what it looks like:
According to the Pixar wiki, there have been several variations of the logo, including the one where Wall-E comes out to fix Luxo Jr's busted lightbulb:
Others include 20th and 25th anniversary versions, a 3D version that premiered with UP, and versions from Cars 2 and Finding Nemo that incorporate story elements into the logo.
This particular logo debuted with Toy Story in 1995. For the short films Pixar produced before that, they used variations on the not-very-exciting theme of circular indent in beveled square, a shape borrowed from the look of their Image Computer:
Many of the logo animation variations, including the pre-Luxo Jr. versions, can be seen in this video:
The director spoke about how his eye sight was getting worse, making it hard for him to create his animation. He also said how each year, he is leaving his desk earlier and earlier.
A reporter noted that Miyazaki's official retirement statement stated that he was retiring from making feature films. "As long as I can drive," Miyazaki replied, "I will be going to the studio every day. But if there's thing I want to do, then I will."
This year's The Wind Rises will be his last feature film. My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Ponyo, and many more...that's quite a body of work.
Vice has a sneak peak at Errol Morris' new documentary on Donald Rumsfeld, in what looks like a sequel of sorts to The Fog of War.
Morris has Rumsfeld perform and explain his "snowflakes," the enormous archive of memos he wrote across almost 50 years in Congress, the White House, in business, and twice at the Pentagon. The memos provide a window into history -- not as it actually happened, but as Rumsfeld wants us to see it.
THE DAILY BEAST: How the hell did you get Rumsfeld to agree to do this? Were you chasing him down?
ERROL MORRIS: No, not at all. I wrote him a letter, enclosed a copy of The Fog of War, heard back from him very quickly, went to Washington, and spent a good part of the day with him. We started it under the premise that he would do two days of interviews, I would edit it, and if he liked it, we'd sign a contract and continue. If he didn't, I'd put the footage in a closet and it would never see the light of day.
The name of the film, The Unknown Known, is a reference to a statement Rumsfeld made at a press briefing about WMDs, terrorism, and Iraq:
There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- there are things we do not know we don't know.
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.
Everything that happens will be sexy. There won't be any gross sounds or sights. Just like in the movies, our sex will be tasteless and odorless. I will not kiss your neck and get a mouthful of perfume and then you're like what's wrong and I'll be like nothing and you'll get all distant and I'll be like sorry it's the taste of your perfume, and you'll be sad because you only wore it because I said I liked it one time and then all of a sudden you're not in the mood and I think about sneaking off to the bathroom to furtively masturbate but I don't and I just hold you limply until you fall asleep then I check Twitter for like an hour. That doesn't happen.
Lantern is a search engine for the books, periodicals, and catalogs contained in the Media History Digital Library. If you are a fan or student of pre-1970s American film and broadcasting, this looks like a goldmine. Here are some of the periodical titles and the years available:
Movie Classic 1931-1937
Home Movies and Home Talkies 1932-1934
Talking Machine World 1921-1928
Also interesting is that Visitors is comprised of only 74 shots, which with a runtime of 87 minutes means the average shot lasts over a minute. According to a recent investigation by Adam Jameson, an ASL (average shot length) of more than a minute is unusual in contemporary film. Inception, for instance, has a ASL of just 3.1 seconds and even a film like Drive, with many long shots, has an ASL of 7 seconds. But as Jameson notes, Alfonso Cuarón's upcoming Gravity contains only 156 shots, including a 17-minute-long shot that opens the film. But the Hollywood master of long-running shots? Hitchcock, I presume:
1. Rope (1948, Alfred Hitchcock), ASL = 433.9 [seconds]
OK, this isn't a recent recent film, but it has to be noted, as it's most likely the highest ASL in Hollywood. Hitchcock used only 10 shots in making it (the film's Wikipedia page lists them). (As you probably know, Hitchcock designed those shots, then edited them such that the finished film appeared to be a single take.)
Ecstasy of Order is a documentary about Tetris and the quest to find the game's grandmasters.
Tetris. We've all played it, rotating the pieces ("tetrominoes") and dropping them in the perfect place, or despairing as we discover a piece won't fit. You may have even joked about "mastering" the game during a stint of unemployment, or as a child, before you could afford any other Game Boy cartridges. But what about the people who've truly mastered Tetris? Where are the Kasparovs and Fischers, the great champions who've dedicated their minds to solving its deepest puzzles?
One man made it his mission to find them. In an effort to legitimize Tetris as a pro sport, Tetris super-fan Robin Mihara summoned the greatest Tetris players from around the country to compete in Los Angeles at the 2010 Classic Tetris World Championship. Among them are the only players known to have reached the unthinkable perfect 'max-out' score on classic Nintendo Tetris: Jonas Neubauer and Harry Hong. Add in the top players for most lines, Ben Mullen and Jesse Kelkar, as well as newcomer Dana Wilcox and modern-day Tetris Grandmaster Alex Kerr, and a storm of Tetris greatness is brewing.
The film is also on Hulu (US-only) if you don't mind commercials.
Fourth-grader Zachary Maxwell is making a short documentary film about the lunch program at his New York City public school. It's called Yuck.
In the fall of 2011, fourth grader Zachary Maxwell began asking his parents if he could start packing and bringing his own lunch to school. Unfortunately, they kept insisting that he take advantage of the hot lunch being served at the school. After all, the online menu sounded delicious and the NYC Department of Education (DOE) website assured parents that the meals were nutritious. Zachary wanted to convince his parents that the online menu did not accurately represent what was really being served at his school.
Here's a short clip in which Zachary compares the special salads concocted by celebrity chefs Rachael Ray and Ellie Krieger for use in NYC public schools to the sad reality.
This is awesome. I mean, the lunches aren't awesome, but Zachary is.
A recent episode of Planet Money explores what the movie Trading Places can teach us about financial markets.
On today's show, we talk to commodities traders to answer one of the most important questions in finance: What actually happens at the end of Trading Places?
We know something crazy happens on the trading floor. We know that Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd get rich and the Duke brothers lose everything. But how does it all happen? And could it happen in the real world?
Also on the show: The "Eddie Murphy Rule" that wound up in the the big financial overhaul law Congress passed in 2010.
One of my favorite movie moments is Eddie Murphy's breaking of the fourth wall in this Trading Places scene:
Friedman, his supporters and the makers of the Academy Award-nominated documentary have long maintained he was railroaded into pleading guilty to charges he molested 13 kids in the late 1980s, and were expecting the report to exonerate him.
It did the opposite.
Friedman, they found, was labeled a "psychopathic deviant" by his own shrink, and had actually sexually abused a total of 17 children.
"The District Attorney concludes that Jesse Friedman was not wrongfully convicted," the blistering 172-page report says.
"In fact, by any impartial analysis, the investigation process prompted by Jesse Friedman . . . has only increased confidence in the integrity of Jesse Friedman's guilty plea adjudication as a sex offender."
The panel said it interviewed three of Friedman's now-adult victims. "Each confirmed that he was sexually abused by Jesse Friedman. Each told their separate story, marked by pain and recovery," and "recounted years of shame and humiliation," the report said.
This made me Laugh Out Loud for reals...Simone Rovellini doctors clips from movies to make actresses' heads explode. The first clip features Dirty Dancing, When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, and Ghost:
And this one features a bunch of Disney princesses:
I cold emailed cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, and-to my surprise-he called me right away. So I flew to New York for the New Yorker festival, met all the cartoonists I'd been reading about, and pitched him my idea. An epic film about the past, present and future of cartooning at the New Yorker! The definitive documentary about his beloved craft, his beloved cartoonists, his beloved hair! How could he say no? He said no.
But that was 6 years ago, when I was too young and too nice. Now I'm going gray and getting crabby, and I've recruited the talented New York filmmaker Davina Pardo to produce the film with me. Bob has given us amazing access to the cartoon department and we are deep into production on the film.
New prints in the Dorothy shop: these really cool Hollywood Star Charts, available in Golden Age and Modern Day editions.
The Modern Day version of our Hollywood Star Chart features constellations named after some of the most culturally significant films to have appeared on the silver screen since 1960 - present day. The stars that make up the clusters are the Hollywood stars that appeared in them.
The chart is based on the night sky over New York on June 16th 1960 -- the date of the first showing of Hitchcock's 'Psycho' at the DeMille Theater. With its new approach to storytelling, characterisation and violence it is seen as a key movie in the start of the post-classical era of Hollywood.
The 108 films featured include those chosen for preservation in the US National Film Registry due to their cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance; Academy Award winners; and a few personal favourites. Films include Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde, The Exorcist, The Godfather, Chinatown, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction and Avatar.
..Though the poster contained no painted imagery, it did introduce a new logo to the campaign, one that had been designed originally for the cover of a Fox brochure sent to theater owners....Suzy Rice, who had just been hired as an art director, remembers the job well. She recalls that the design directive given by Lucas was that the logo should look "very fascist."
"I'd been reading a book the night before the meeting with George Lucas," she says, "a book about German type design and the historical origins of some of the popular typefaces used today -- how they developed into what we see and use in the present." After Lucas described the kind of visual element he was seeking, "I returned to the office and used what I reckoned to be the most 'fascist' typeface I could think of: Helvetica Black."
Executive produced by Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, The Act of Killing is a documentary directed by Joshua Oppenheimer about a group of Indonesian mass murderers.
In The Act of Killing, Anwar and his friends agree to tell us the story of the killings. But their idea of being in a movie is not to provide testimony for a documentary: they want to star in the kind of films they most love from their days scalping tickets at the cinemas. We seize this opportunity to expose how a regime that was founded on crimes against humanity, yet has never been held accountable, would project itself into history.
And so we challenge Anwar and his friends to develop fiction scenes about their experience of the killings, adapted to their favorite film genres -- gangster, western, musical. They write the scripts. They play themselves. And they play their victims.
Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures is a documentary released in 2001 about Stanley Kubrick. Narrated by Tom Cruise, the film was directed by his long-time assistant Jan Harlan and features interviews of many actors from Kubrick's films as well as other noted directors like Spielberg and Scorsese. The entire thing is available on YouTube:
But before we talk about movies we should talk about art in general, if that's possible. Given all the incredible suffering in the world I wonder, what is art for, really? If the collected works of Shakespeare can't prevent genocide then really, what is it for? Shouldn't we be spending the time and resources alleviating suffering and helping other people instead of going to the movies and plays and art installations? When we did Ocean's Thirteen the casino set used $60,000 of electricity every week. How do you justify that? Do you justify that by saying, the people who could've had that electricity are going to watch the movie for two hours and be entertained - except they probably can't, because they don't have any electricity, because we used it. Then I think, what about all the resources spent on all the pieces of entertainment? What about the carbon footprint of getting me here? Then I think, why are you even thinking that way and worrying about how many miles per gallon my car gets, when we have NASCAR, and monster truck pulls on TV? So what I finally decided was, art is simply inevitable. It was on the wall of a cave in France 30,000 years ago, and it's because we are a species that's driven by narrative. Art is storytelling, and we need to tell stories to pass along ideas and information, and to try and make sense out of all this chaos. And sometimes when you get a really good artist and a compelling story, you can almost achieve that thing that's impossible which is entering the consciousness of another human being - literally seeing the world the way they see it. Then, if you have a really good piece of art and a really good artist, you are altered in some way, and so the experience is transformative and in the minute you're experiencing that piece of art, you're not alone. You're connected to the arts. So I feel like that can't be too bad.
Update: If you prefer to watch the speech, have at it:
HELMS: I was always the nervous Nelly about those jokes. Zach was going to get arrested for the baby thing.
PHILLIPS: Jerking the baby off at Caesars.
GALIFIANAKIS: I did it first with the doll that was just sitting there while we were setting up the shot. I showed Todd, and he goes, "Let's go ask the parents if we can do that." (Laughter.) I'm like, "No."
PHILLIPS: I waited for the [baby's] mom to go upstairs because the mom was a little bit more not into stuff like that. I go to the dad: "It would be funny if Zach pretends to do this. Would you have a problem with that?" And he literally goes: "[My wife is] going to be gone for a half-hour. Can you do it in the next half-hour?"
COOPER: "Can you jerk my kid off in a half-hour?" (Laughter.)
Caught The Central Park Five on PBS last night and it's one of those films that puts you into rage-against-the-machine mode.
The Central Park Five, a new film from award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns, tells the story of the five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City's Central Park in 1989. The film chronicles The Central Park Jogger case, for the first time from the perspective of these five teenagers whose lives were upended by this miscarriage of justice.
Ricky Jay, who is perhaps the most gifted sleight-of-hand artist alive, was performing magic with a deck of cards. Also present was a friend of Mamet and Mosher's named Christ Nogulich, the director of food and beverage at the hotel. After twenty minutes of disbelief-suspending manipulations, Jay spread the deck face up on the bar counter and asked Nogulich to concentrate on a specific card but not to reveal it. Jay then assembled the deck face down, shuffled, cut it into two piles, and asked Nogulich to point to one of the piles and name his card.
"Three of clubs," Nogulich said, and he was then instructed to turn over the top card.
He turned over the three of clubs.
Mosher, in what could be interpreted as a passive-aggressive act, quietly announced, "Ricky, you know, I also concentrated on a card."
After an interval of silence, Jay said, "That's interesting, Gregory, but I only do this for one person at a time."
Mosher persisted: "Well, Ricky, I really was thinking of a card."
Jay paused, frowned, stared at Mosher, and said, "This is a distinct change of procedure." A longer pause. "All right-what was the card?"
"Two of spades."
Jay nodded, and gestured toward the other pile, and Mosher turned over its top card.
Ebert, 70, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, and who was without question the nation's most prominent and influential film critic, died Thursday in Chicago. He had been in poor health over the past decade, battling cancers of the thyroid and salivary gland.
He lost part of his lower jaw in 2006, and with it the ability to speak or eat, a calamity that would have driven other men from the public eye. But Ebert refused to hide, instead forging what became a new chapter in his career, an extraordinary chronicle of his devastating illness that won him a new generation of admirers. "No point in denying it," he wrote, analyzing his medical struggles with characteristic courage, candor and wit, a view that was never tinged with bitterness or self-pity.
Always technically savvy - he was an early investor in Google - Ebert let the Internet be his voice. His rogerebert.com had millions of fans, and he received a special achievement award as the 2010 "Person of the Year" from the Webby Awards, which noted that "his online journal has raised the bar for the level of poignancy, thoughtfulness and critique one can achieve on the Web." His Twitter feeds had 827,000 followers.
Ebert was both widely popular and professionally respected. He not only won a Pulitzer Prize - the first film critic to do so - but his name was added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005, among the movie stars he wrote about so well for so long. His reviews were syndicated in hundreds of newspapers worldwide.
What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me. What's more, I'll be able at last to do what I've always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.
At the same time, I am re-launching the new and improved Rogerebert.com and taking ownership of the site under a separate entity, Ebert Digital, run by me, my beloved wife, Chaz, and our brilliant friend, Josh Golden of Table XI. Stepping away from the day-to-day grind will enable me to continue as a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and roll out other projects under the Ebert brand in the coming year.
The first thing you'll notice about Vdio is that it's designed to solve the "what to watch" problem. It's not just that we've got amazing content, but that the experience is now geared to get you from searching to watching faster. We're introducing the notion of Sets -- playlists for TV shows and movies -- so anyone can make and share lists of their favorites, making it easier than ever to discover new stuff. Or, you can just check out what your friends are watching in the moment and jump in. Beyond that, Vdio has the beautiful design and social features that people love about Rdio, with plenty more to come.
I haven't played with it too much, but it looks like it's not an all-you-can-eat service like Rdio...you buy/rent movies and TV shows just like iTunes, Amazon, etc.
 And that's actually a huge understatement. I ignored streaming music services like Rdio and Spotify when they came out, opting for the familiarity of iTunes, but Rdio has completely reignited my love of music over the past two months. Should write a whole post about this at some point. ↩
Caught a rerun of an episode of This American Life on reruns the other day. The first segment is about a movie I'd never heard about before, The Beaver Trilogy. I don't want to spoil it too much (the Wikipedia page contains spoilers as well) but the first part of the film features documentary footage of a kid from Beaver, Utah doing impressions and putting on a talent show. The second and third parts are recreations of that footage featuring, well, just listen to the story or watch the first two parts of the movie for yourself (one, two). (thx, @eventi)
Anderson has finished filming his next movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, with the likes of Tilda Swinton, Jude Law, Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson. Screen Daily has some plot details:
The Grand Budapest Hotel tells of a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars and his friendship with a young employee who becomes his trusted protégé. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting, the battle for an enormous family fortune and the slow and then sudden upheavals that transformed Europe during the first half of the 20th century.
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.
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.
In S.R. Bindler's 1997 cult classic, Hands On a Hardbody, two dozen small-town Texans compete for a brand-new "Hardbody" pickup truck at a local car dealership. The event is a contest of endurance and sleep-deprivation -- whoever can remain standing the longest with one hand on the truck will get to drive it home. Capturing several days of lunacy, laughter, struggle and heartbreak, Hands On a Hardbody is more than a documentary about winning a truck. It is a remarkable study of competition, camaraderie, faith and determination-the ultimate human drama.
For an extra $5, you get 90 minutes of bonus material. The film has been unavailable in any format for years. I still have an original DVD in my squirreled-away DVD collection...it's one of my favorite documentaries. (via @gavinpurcell)
Thinking about the specifics of this museum, the sets would either be actual sets from the movie (if they still existed), or meticulously recreated sets. The recreated sets would have to be very exacting, and basically made to look indistinguishable from the real thing. I realize that even if you had an actual set, many of them are missing things, like ceilings or fourth walls. Those pieces would all be recreated to match the rest of the set and create an entire room. The key would be every room you enter would be a complete 360 degree environment, and you would feel as if you actually were in the movie.
I imagine a person walking from set to set, at one moment in a 40s noir movie, and the next in an 80s comedy. It would be a surreal place to visit, as you would enter into these various worlds you've spent your entire life watching. Each room's set would be lighted to match exactly how it looked on film, and there would be ambient sound playing in the background matched to the reality of the place. So a set of a New York City apartment would have genuine street sounds, while a set of a space ship might have the hum of the ship's engine. All the sounds will be taken directly from the movie if at all possible.
Some of Edwards' proposed sets include the 7 1/2 floor office from Being John Malkovich, Ferris' bedroom from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Vito Corleone's office from The Godfather.
This is a clip from Samsara, a 2011 film directed by Ron Fricke, who was the director of photography for Koyaanisqatsi. The chicken picker machine hoovering up chickens and depositing them into drawers is one of the most dystopian things I've ever seen.
But the movie caught, like no other piece of art I'm aware of, what really was at play in 1976 -- that weed was the solvent that, for one blessed moment, managed to cut through the most rigid social stratifications in existence, which are the social stratifications of high school. The class of '76 wasn't just one big party; it was a big democratic party, and a glimpse of how things could be different. But it didn't last, or else we were too stoned to care, and Dazed and Confused captures that feeling as well. For a long time, I felt that the greatest cultural failure of my generation was its refusal to accept punk rock and admit it to the rock and roll pantheon -- that we decided we'd rather listen to Boston than the Clash. Now I think its greatest failure is its refusal to see itself in the mirror of Dazed and Confused.
When Pulp Fiction thundered into theaters a year later, Stanley Crouch in the Los Angeles Times called it "a high point in a low age." Time declared, "It hits you like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart." In Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman said it was "nothing less than the reinvention of mainstream American cinema."
Made for $8.5 million, it earned $214 million worldwide, making it the top-grossing independent film at the time. Roger Ebert called it "the most influential" movie of the 1990s, "so well-written in a scruffy, fanzine way that you want to rub noses in it -- the noses of those zombie writers who take 'screenwriting' classes that teach them the formulas for 'hit films.' "
Pulp Fiction resuscitated the career of John Travolta, made stars of Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, gave Bruce Willis new muscle at the box office, and turned Harvey and Bob Weinstein, of Miramax, into giants of independent cinema. Harvey calls it "the first independent movie that broke all the rules. It set a new dial on the movie clock."
"It must be hard to believe that Mr. Tarantino, a mostly self-taught, mostly untested talent who spent his formative years working in a video store, has come up with a work of such depth, wit and blazing originality that it places him in the front ranks of American filmmakers," wrote Janet Maslin in The New York Times. "You don't merely enter a theater to see Pulp Fiction: you go down a rabbit hole." Jon Ronson, critic for The Independent, in England, proclaimed, "Not since the advent of Citizen Kane ... has one man appeared from relative obscurity to redefine the art of movie-making."
So many great things in this piece. Daniel Day-Lewis as Vincent Vega, Samuel L. Jackson had to fight to play Jules, how to replicate a heroin high ("drink as much tequila as you can and lay in a warm pool or tub of water"), Travolta's contribution to the humor (and choreography) of the film, and the true contents of the briefcase.
I saw Pulp Fiction on opening weekend in a mall theater in Iowa. We had no idea what to expect going in and holy hell the drive home was a weird mixture of shellshocked and wired. (via df)
The entire soundtrack for Shane Carruth's Upstream Color is available for streaming on SoundCloud.
From what I can gather, Carruth did the soundtrack himself. So for those keeping track at home, Carruth wrote, directed, starred in, did the soundtrack for, produced, edited, did the cinematography for, and operated a camera for Upstream Color. Oh, and he's self-distributing the film through his own production company. No wonder I like this guy.
The film opens in US theaters beginning in mid-April and will be available for sale in early May: pre-order at Amazon or on iTunes. (via @gotrlelo)
Last weekend, Sarah alerted us that the Criterion Collection movies on Hulu were available to watch for free all weekend long. It was a classic kottke.org post: here's something of very high quality that everyone can experience right now. Spot on, nailed it, I personally got excited and I would have taken full advantage had I not been out of the country.
The funny thing is that Hulu's Criterion movies are almost always nearly free. There are many films -- like Hoop Dreams, Babette's Feast, A Woman Under the Influence, and Rashomon -- that are totally free right now, just click the links and they start playing. But the rest of the Criterion films (looks like there's dozens if not hundreds of them) are very nearly free all the time, all available if you subscribe to Hulu Plus for $7.99 per month. Dammit, I don't want to do this but I'm trotting out the hoary cups of coffee metric here: for the price of two cups of coffee, you can watch as many Criterion-caliber films in the next month as you want, until your eyeballs pus over and burst from all the electromagnetic radiation pulsing into your retinas. And you also get all three seasons of Arrested Development!
Thank you, G.O.B. Most iPhone apps are either free or nearly free. Hundreds of classic works of literature are available on your favorite reading device for free or nearly free. There are enough freely available longreads out there to gag Instapaper. And let's not even get started on YouTube, it's a cultural fucking goldmine. Louis, you were right: everything is amazing and nobody's happy. Because who has two thumbs, disposable income, an interest in excellent films, and is not subscribing to Hulu Plus because it seems like too much money and too much effort? This spoiled idiot right here.
The electric lighbulb, the phonograph, and the movie camera were invented (or significantly improved upon) by Thomas Edison, so lets give him credit for one more: LOLcats:
This short film was shot at the world's first movie studio, The Black Maria, located in West Orange, NJ. The entire building was built on a turntable so that the building could rotate with the sun for the best lighting conditions. (via "robin sloan")