kottke.org posts about movies

The top 100 animated moviesApr 17 2014

Time Out polled more than 100 experts to find the 100 best animated movies. Here's the top 10 (minus the top pick...you'll have to click through for that):

10. Fantastic Mr. Fox
9. The Nightmare Before Christmas
8. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
7. The Iron Giant
6. Dumbo
5. The Incredibles
4. Toy Story
3. My Neighbor Totoro
2. Spirited Away

I'm delighted to see Fantastic Mr Fox on the list...it's an underrated effort by Wes Anderson that will continue to grow in esteem as the years pass. No Wall-E in the top 10 though? I don't know about that. It clocks in at #36, behind Chicken Run (the least of Aardman's efforts in my mind) and Up, which is maybe my least favorite Pixar film. (via @garymross)

Let It Go internationallyApr 16 2014

Frozen, Let It Go

If you have children in your home, you have likely seen the movie Frozen and heard the song Let It Go like 50 billionty times. The movie did great in the US, coming in as the 19th biggest movie ever, but it's done amazingly well overseas: #8 on the alltime list with a $1.1 billion gross.

So it's a no-brainer for Disney to release an album with 50 different versions of Let It Go, sung in languages ranging from Arabic to Icelandic to Romanian to Vietnamese. (via @cabel)

Update: Here's a video of the entire song sung in 25 languages:

(via @waxpancake & @Ilovetoscore)

Soundtrack for The Unknown KnownApr 14 2014

Your Monday morning needs a soundtrack and Danny Elfman's score for Errol Morris' The Unknown Known is just the thing. Available at Amazon or on iTunes.

A.I. movie merch: Super Toy TeddyApr 11 2014

Super Toy Teddy

Today I learned that Hasbro released a toy based on the talking teddy bear in Kubrick/Spielberg's A.I. W? T? F? And of course it's super creepy:

Noel Murray has the whole story, along with an appreciation of the movie and Spielberg's direction of it.

A.I. in particular still strikes me as a masterpiece. I thought it might be back in 2001; now I'm certain of it. But it isn't any easier to watch in 2014 than it was before my first child was born. Like a lot of Spielberg's films -- even the earlier crowd-pleasers -- A.I. is a pointed critique of human selfishness, and our tendency to assert our will and make bold, world-changing moves, with only passing regard for the long-term consequences. Spielberg carries this theme of misguided self-absorption to child-rearing, implying that parents program their kids to be cute love machines, unable to cope with the harshness of the real world. He also questions whether humankind is nothing but flesh-based technology, which emerged from the primordial ooze (represented in the opening shot of A.I. by a roiling ocean), and has been trained over millennia to respond to stimuli in socially appropriate ways. A.I. blurs the lines between human and mecha frequently, from an early shot of Monica that makes her look exactly like one of Professor Hobby's creations, to the way Martin walks, thanks to mechanical legs.

Watch The Unknown KnownApr 06 2014

Errol Morris's latest documentary on Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, just came out in theaters. But it's also available right now to rent/buy on Amazon and iTunes. Here's a trailer if you need convincing.

2001 behind-the-scenes photosApr 03 2014

From a large collection of photos shot on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey, two of my favorites:

2001 Behind 01

2001 Behind 02

Those are a pair of smooth criminals right there.

Shaun the Sheep MovieApr 03 2014

Holy cow, Aardman is making a Shaun the Sheep Movie! Here's a teaser trailer:

The movie will be out in March 2015 and the plot centers on the sheep going to the big city to retrieve the Farmer. As I wrote last year, Shaun the Sheep is wonderful family entertainment. I wonder how the lack of dialogue will translate to the feature length format? (thx, greg)

The history of the movie trailerApr 03 2014

Filmmaker IQ has a nice exploration of the history of the movie trailer. And yes, they actually used to play at the end of (i.e. "trail") the film.

Coming into the 1960s, a new generation of star directors began to redefine the trailer - among them was the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. Instead of showing scenes from the movie, Hitchcock, who had become quite well known to audiences from his "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" TV series, cashed in on his celebrity... taking audiences on a tour using his gallows humor style in this trailer for 1960's Pscyho.

The reemergence of Cubism in film and commercial art in the 1960s was not lost on another emerging filmmaker - Stanley Kubrick. Having experimented with fragmented cutting styles in the trailer to 1962's Lolita, Kubrick comes back strong in 1964's "Dr. Strangelove" with a trailer that I consider one of the most bold and brazen pieces of movie advertising ever made.

Finding Vivian Maier now out in theatersApr 01 2014

Now showing at IFC Center in NYC: Finding Vivian Maier. Maier is the Chicago street photographer whose extensive and impressive body of work was recently discovered at an auction. John Maloof bought Maier's work, started posting it to a blog several years ago, did a Kickstarter (one of the first I backed) to fund a documentary about Maier and her photos, and now the film is showing in theaters around the US and Canada.

Noah soundtrackMar 31 2014

A Clint Mansell soundtrack for a Darren Aronofsky film? Hell. Yes.

Mansell also did the soundtracks for Moon (my favorite of his, I think) and Requiem for a Dream. The Noah soundtrack is available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon.

Donald Rumsfeld: The Unknown KnownMar 26 2014

Errol Morris' documentary about Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, comes out next month. The trailer:

In the first of a four-part companion series to the movie for the NY Times, Morris explores The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld.

When I first met Donald Rumsfeld in his offices in Washington, D.C., one of the things I said to him was that if we could provide an answer to the American public about why we went to war in Iraq, we would be rendering an important service. He agreed. Unfortunately, after having spent 33 hours over the course of a year interviewing Mr. Rumsfeld, I fear I know less about the origins of the Iraq war than when I started. A question presents itself: How could that be? How could I know less rather than more? Was he hiding something? Or was there really little more than met the eye?

The Unknown Known has been referred to as a sequel of sorts to The Fog of War, but from this it seems more like its opposite. Morris got some substantive and honest answers to important questions from McNamara, whereas it sounds like he got bupkiss from Rumsfeld.

Update: Here's part 2.

The design of Grand Budapest HotelMar 24 2014

Grand Budapest

The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson's most design-y film, and that's really saying something. Typography is present in almost every frame; at times, it was almost oppressive. Creative Review interviewed designer Annie Atkins, who was responsible for the film's graphic design elements.

Oh my goodness, so many signs in the 1960s hotel lobby! I have to give credit to Liliana for this work, as she took care of nearly all of these. She had three sign-writers from Berlin painting non-stop for a week to get them all done in time for our first day of shoot, as that set was first up. Wes and Adam had seen so many examples of quite officious signage in what had been communist East Germany -- don't do this, don't do that, do this but only like that! The signs really added to the claustrophobic feeling of that set, and Wes had asked for them all to be black with simple white hand-painted lettering -- based on the style of the old sign at Yorckstrasse subway station in Berlin.

Creativity, Inc.Mar 21 2014

Ed Catmull has written a book about Pixar's creative process: Creativity, Inc.

Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation -- into the meetings, postmortems, and "Braintrust" sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture -- but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, "an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible."

For nearly twenty years, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, and WALL-E, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner thirty Academy Awards. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired -- and so profitable.

Catmull was a founder of Pixar and while he never got the press Jobs and Lasseter did, he was instrumental in the company's success and is currently president of both Disney and Pixar's animation studios. Fast Company has an excerpt of the book.

Candor could not be more crucial to our creative process. Why? Because early on, all of our movies suck. That's a blunt assessment, I know, but I choose that phrasing because saying it in a softer way fails to convey how bad the first versions really are. I'm not trying to be modest or self-effacing. Pixar films are not good at first, and our job is to make them so -- to go, as I say, "from suck to not-suck."

Think about how easy it would be for a movie about talking toys to feel derivative, sappy, or overtly merchandise driven. Think about how off-putting a movie about rats preparing food could be, or how risky it must've seemed to start WALL-E with 39 dialogue-free minutes. We dare to attempt these stories, but we don't get them right on the first pass. This is as it should be. Creativity has to start somewhere, and we are true believers in the power of bracing, candid feedback and the iterative process -- reworking, reworking, and reworking again, until a flawed story finds its through line or a hollow character finds its soul.

Grand Budapest Hotel soundtrackMar 13 2014

Oh hello Grand Budapest Hotel soundtrack on Rdio. Alexandre Desplat. It's a goooood morning.

Also available for download on Amazon or iTunes if that's your thing.

Particle FeverMar 12 2014

Last year (spoilers!), CERN confirmed the discovery of the Higgs boson. Physicist-turned-filmmaker Mark Levinson has made a film about the search for the so-called God Particle. Particle Fever follows a group of scientists through the process of discovery and the construction of the mega-machine that discovered the Higgs, the Large Hadron Collider. Here's a trailer:

Two additional data points: the movie is holding a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and legendary sound designer and editor Walter Murch edited the film. Particle Fever is showing at Film Forum in New York until March 20. (thx, james)

The man that Disney builtMar 10 2014

When Owen Suskind was three, a switch flipped within him and he went from a typical chatty rambunctious three-year-old to autistic.

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.

Star Wars HighMar 06 2014

Denis Medri illustrates scenes from Star Wars as if Luke, Leia, Han, and the rest of the gang were teenagers in an 80s movie like Back to the Future, Karate Kid, or Breakfast Club.

Luke and Leia in high school

Great Scott, the Force is strong in these two.

Jurassic UnixMar 03 2014

Hold onto yer butts, you can use the computer interface from Jurassic Park right in your web browser.

Jurassic Park Unix

It may look a little confusing but just remember: this is a Unix system and you know this.

The unique visual style of Wes AndersonMar 03 2014

In his own words, Wes Anderson explains different aspects of his visual style.

Nicely edited together by Nelson Carvajal at Way Too Indie.

Gosford ParkFeb 25 2014

Gosford Park

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.

Watch it on Netflix Instant, at Amazon, or on iTunes.

Andy's mom owned Jessie?Feb 25 2014

My mind is so tiny these days it doesn't take much to blow it, so grain of salt and all that. But, this theory that Andy's mom in Toy Story is Jessie's original owner is popping my fuse right now.

Several months ago, one of my anonymous Pixar Theory Interns (that's a thing on a resume) came to me with a crazy proposition: Andy's mom is Emily, Jessie's previous owner.

I laughed. I then agreed.

Previously: a grand unified theory of Pixar.

Evolution of the Warner Bros logoFeb 25 2014

Fine work as usual from Christian Annyas: a look at the design of the Warner Bros logo from 1923 to the present. The classic "WB" shield of my Bugs-and-Daffy-saturated youth will always be a favorite, but I do like the Saul Bass logo of the 70s and early 80s:

Saul Bass Warner Logo

Affleck's Argo and Soderbergh's Magic Mike both used the Bass logo in place of the contemporary logo, which is the kind of little detail I love.

A Brief History of TimeFeb 25 2014

Huzzah! Long unavailable (or at least not widely available), Errol Morris' documentary film on Stephen Hawking and his work, A Brief History of Time, is now available for rent or purchase on iTunes. Or if you can wait a little bit, there's a Criterion Blu-ray edition coming out in mid-March. Bonus: score by Philip Glass!

And introducing: the billing blockFeb 24 2014

This is called a billing block:

Billing Block

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.

VHS vs CommunismFeb 18 2014

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.

The film is adapted from an upcoming feature-length documentary called Chuck Norris vs Communism. (via df)

Kurzweil reviews HerFeb 18 2014

Futurist Ray Kurzweil reviews Spike Jonze's Her.

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.

How Criterion restores a filmFeb 18 2014

A short video from Gizmodo about how Criterion restores a film for release on DVD/Blu-ray. Watch as the color, contrast, audio, and picture is corrected on Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent.

Classic Movies in Miniature StyleFeb 11 2014

For his Classic Movies in Miniature Style series, Murat Palta illustrated scenes from movies using traditional Ottoman motifs. Here's A Clockwork Orange and Kill Bill:

Murat Palta Clockwork

Murat Palta Kill Bill

Great stuff. (via @pieratt)

Watch Philip Seymour Hoffman's films onlineFeb 05 2014

Synecdoche Poster

Understandably, lots of folks are wanting to wade into the late Philip Seymour Hoffman's formidable body of work. Netflix Watch Instantly doesn't have a whole lot of available titles and Hulu has a mere two, but Amazon has quite a few for rent or purchase. Some of my favorites: The Master, Synecdoche, New York, Almost Famous, Magnolia, and Boogie Nights. I need to find time for a Synecdoche viewing this week.

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.

2001: A Font OdysseyFeb 03 2014

From a new blog, Typeset in the Future, an examination of the typography in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It's Futura again, with an M borrowed from Gill Sans, and a W that I don't recognize from anywhere.

Best visual effects Oscar winnersJan 30 2014

From Star Wars to Life of Pi, this is a video compilation of clips from every movie that's won the Best Visual Effects Oscar since the introduction of the award in 1977.

(via devour)

Arcade Fire: Her soundtrack will be releasedJan 30 2014

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):

Listen to the soundtrack for HerJan 27 2014

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.

The Godfather shooting locationsJan 27 2014

Great post by Nick Carr on Scouting New York comparing the movie locations in The Godfather to what they look like today.

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.

Shooting on the short endsJan 24 2014

This oral history of Swingers over at Grantland got a little long for me (but if you're a fan, you should definitely read the whole thing), but there are good bits throughout. I particularly liked this part:

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.

Whatever it takes, baby.

Lufthansa heist crooks nabbedJan 23 2014

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."

Fear and DesireJan 16 2014

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.

(via @SebastianNebel)

Hoop Dreams is 20 years oldJan 15 2014

Hoop Dreams is a tremendous documentary that will be re-screened at Sundance this year, two decades after its initial release. Here's an oral history of the making of the film.

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."

The Making of Raiders of the Lost ArkJan 10 2014

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.

Wes Anderson slow motion supercutJan 09 2014

No one uses slow motion more consistently than Wes Anderson; all his films except Fantastic Mr. Fox use the technique. Here are all the slow-mo scenes from his films strung together:

(via devour)

The Secret Life of Walter MittyDec 30 2013

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!" ...

The best book covers, movie posters, and magazine covers of 2013Dec 23 2013

Magazine covers, movie posters, and book covers all have the same basic job, so it seemed proper to group these lists together: 50 [Book] Covers for 2013, The 20 best magazine covers of 2013, The 50 Best Posters Of 2013, Top [Magazine] Covers 2013, The Best Book Covers of 2013, The 30 Best Movie Posters of 2013, Best Book Covers of 2013. Lots of great work here. I still can't figure out whether I love or hate this cover of W with George Clooney on it:

Clooney W Mag

The Wolf of Bedford FallsDec 20 2013

Trailer for It's a Wonderful Life, recut in the style of the trailer for Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street. Music is Black Skinhead by Kanye West.

12 O'Clock BoysDec 16 2013

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.

(via @aaroncoleman0)

Jason Segel to play David Foster Wallace in a movieDec 12 2013

Jason Segel is set to play David Foster Wallace in a movie adaptation of David Lipsky's Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself.

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.

Godard's list of best American filmsDec 09 2013

In the early 1960s, French director Jean-Luc Godard put together a list of the Ten Best American Sound Films. The list included:

The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)
Singin' in the Rain (Kelly-Donen)
The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles)

The list appeared as one of a series in Cahiers du Cinema, the influential French film magazine. (via @DavidGrann)

Director's cut of The Dark CrystalDec 06 2013

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.

Production was supposed to have begun on a Dark Crystal sequel, but according to the Muppet Wiki, the project has been shelved.

David Ehrlich's top 25 films of 2013Dec 04 2013

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)

Gender roles and monogamy in The Hunger GamesDec 04 2013

Linda Holmes writes about the gender roles of the main characters in the Hunger Games movies and how unusual they are for a mainstream blockbuster film.

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.

Mimi Schippers, riffing on Holmes' piece, argues that Katniss is such an interesting character because she's not tied to a particular gender...she's the "movie boyfriend" with Peeta and the "movie girlfriend" with Gale.

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.

Coen brothers next film set in ancient RomeDec 04 2013

In a recent interview, the Coen brothers revealed that their next movie will be "a sandal movie" set in ancient Rome.

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."

Roger Ebert documentaryNov 25 2013

Steve James, the director of Hoop Dreams, is raising funds on Indiegogo for a documentary based on Roger Ebert's memoir, Life Itself.

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.

Aningaaq, a Gravity companion filmNov 21 2013

[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.

"Life in Ikea is impossible"Nov 15 2013

The trailer for Alfonso Cuarón's "Ikea", a film about a man and a woman lost in the vast nothingness of Ikea.

(via ★interesting)

Trailer for NoahNov 14 2013

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:

Spoiler: Noah survives and lives to the age of 950. More spoilers in Genesis Chapter 6. (via devour)

The effortless fame of George ClooneyNov 12 2013

Esquire has Tom Junod writing profiles of the most famous men in Hollywood: Leonard DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt. This month, Junod tackles George Clooney, who despite not having a big box office hit until Gravity, is right up there with Pitt, Cruise, and Hanks in pure wattage of stardom.

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."

Hogwarts' Board of Education report largely unsatisfactoryNov 06 2013

Earlier this year, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was subjected to a review by the Board of Education and was found wanting in several areas.

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.

(via slate)

The trailer for The Lego MovieNov 01 2013

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.

Hitchcock on cuttingOct 29 2013

In this 7-minute interview, Alfred Hitchcock explains his editing/cutting technique.

The full interview from which this is taken, which is "part interview, part master class in the craft of telling stories on film", is available on YouTube: part 1 and part 2.

Video essay series on Wes Anderson concludesOct 29 2013

Speaking of Wes Anderson, Matt Zoller Seitz has finished his video essay series on Anderson's movies. You can find the entire collection of videos on Vimeo and transcripts and notes are on Seitz's blog. Here are the final two to get you going:

And if that's not enough for you, here's the book that the videos are based on.

Blooper reel from Star WarsOct 28 2013

A blooper reel from the original Star Wars...looks like this hasn't ever been seen before.

The Midnight Coterie of Sinister IntrudersOct 28 2013

Wes Anderson is coming out with a new horror movie. Here's the trailer:

Ha ha just kidding it's a SNL spoof. Ed Norton does a pretty ripping Owen Wilson.

Wes Anderson's Star Wars referenceOct 22 2013

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:

Life Aquatic Star Wars reference

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:

And of course, there's Conan O'Brien's take on what a Star Wars movie directed by Anderson might look like.

The five editing techniques of Vsevolod PudovkinOct 18 2013

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.

Pudovkin's book, Film Technique and Film Acting, which is available to read for free online. Stanley Kubrick was a fan:

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.

The Wes Anderson Collection: The Motion PictureOct 17 2013

Matt Zoller Seitz is doing a video essay series based on his new book, The Wes Anderson Collection. The first two installments, on Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, are already up:

I love what he says about Rushmore:

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.

The Grand Budapest HotelOct 17 2013

The first trailer for Wes Anderson's new movie. This looks great!

RIP, Kumar PallanaOct 10 2013

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 CollectionOct 08 2013

Out today is The Wes Anderson Collection (at Amazon), a coffee-table book about Wes Anderson's career.

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."

Even if it's fake, it's real.

Why do we eat popcorn at the movies?Oct 04 2013

Smithsonian Mag goes way back to explain why we eat popcorn at the movies.

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.

TerminusOct 04 2013

Terminus is a 1961 documentary depicting a day in the life of London's Waterloo Station.

The film was directed by John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy) and won several awards when it was released. (thx, nick)

Trailer for the second Hobbit movieOct 01 2013

The first full trailer for the second Hobbit movie is out. The movie is out in December and was shot at 48fps like the first one.

Cumberbatch! (via devour)

Four rules to make Star Wars great againSep 30 2013

Disney and JJ Abrams are rebooting the Star Wars franchise. This two-minute video outlines four simple rules that could make Star Wars great again.

The rules are:

1. The setting is the frontier.
2. The future is old.
3. The Force is mysterious.
4. Star Wars isn't cute.

Room 237 is Crazy Good: A Dissenting OpinionSep 27 2013

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.

After The ShiningSep 27 2013

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.

rating: 1.0 stars

Room 237Sep 25 2013

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 <jason@kottke.org>
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!??

Yep: "Really bad. Boring bad. Crazy people."

From punk rock to family menSep 25 2013

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.

Available to rent/buy on iTunes and on Amazon.

(via @claytoncubitt)

Moonrise Kingdom typographySep 23 2013

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!

A grand unified theory of Pixar moviesSep 20 2013

I love this theory from Jon Negroni that all of the Pixar movies take place in the same universe and are all connected.

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.

For the reading-averse, there's a condensed timeline version. (via slate)

Star Wars opening crawl done with HTML/CSSSep 16 2013

Tim Pietrusky made an HTML/CSS version of the opening text crawl from Star Wars.

New Harry Potter film! New Harry Potter film?Sep 12 2013

Well, sort of. Rowling is writing a screenplay for Warner Bros. based on a Hogwart's textbook called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

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.

A short history of the Pixar logo animationSep 12 2013

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:

Original Pixar Logo

Many of the logo animation variations, including the pre-Luxo Jr. versions, can be seen in this video:

Hayao Miyazaki is retiringSep 06 2013

Animator Hayao Miyazaki is retiring from making feature length films. At a press conference in Tokyo, he discussed why.

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.

The Unknown KnownSep 03 2013

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.

Jesus, that little smile at the end. The Daily Beast has an interview with Morris about the film.

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.

Best special effects momentsAug 22 2013

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.

Sex in movies is sexyAug 22 2013

Josh Gondelman wants to make love to you like in the movies.

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.

History of film and broadcasting search engineAug 20 2013

Citizen Kane Mag Cover

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:

Variety 1905-1926
Photoplay 1914-1943
Movie Classic 1931-1937
Home Movies and Home Talkies 1932-1934
Talking Machine World 1921-1928

(via candler blog)

VisitorsAug 12 2013

Here's the trailer for Visitors, a new film from Koyaanisqatsi collaborators Godfrey Reggio and Philip Glass. Most of the trailer consists of a single two-minute shot.

That shot reminds me of many things: Andy Warhol, long photos, James Nares' Street, and Robbie Cooper's work depicting kids playing video games.

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.)

HerAug 09 2013

Spike Jonze's new movie features Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with his computer. The trailer:

That looks really good. I didn't care for Where the Wild Things Are but Being John Malkovich is one of my favorite movies.

Ecstasy of OrderAug 02 2013

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.

Posters of famous movie carsJul 31 2013

The CarsAndFilms Etsy shop sells posters featuring famous cars from films.

Cars And Films

(via cup of jo)

List of Stanley Kubrick's favorite moviesJul 30 2013

Compiled from a bunch of different sources, here's an attempt at an exhaustive list of movies that Stanley Kubrick liked. Among them:

Citizen Kane
The Godfather
Metropolis
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Harold and Maude
Close Encounters of the Third Kind

By far the weirdest entry on the list is White Men Can't Jump. Then again, Terrence Malick loves Zoolander and David Foster Wallace once listed a Tom Clancy novel as a favorite. (via @DavidGrann)

Trailer for GravityJul 24 2013

The latest trailer for Gravity, starring Bullock and Clooney and directed by Alfonso Cuarón (who directed Children of Men).

Holy God, this looks terrifying. Can't wait. (via ★interesting)

Paramount Studio location map of CaliforniaJul 22 2013

Published in 1927 in a publication called The Motion Picture Industry as a Basis for Bond Financing, this map shows what locations in California look like other places from around the world.

CA Movie Locations

(via flickr)

Yuck, an expose about NYC's public school lunchesJul 15 2013

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.

The economics of Trading PlacesJul 11 2013

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:

William Shakespeare's Star WarsJul 03 2013

What if William Shakespeare wrote Star Wars?

Shakespeare Star Wars

Boing Boing has an excerpt.

The Dunham CollectionJun 26 2013

Lena Dunham shares her fifteen favorite Criterion films, saying she's embarrassed that "so many of these films are in English, but I just love speaking English".

Recapturing the FriedmansJun 26 2013

Back in November, I posted about the effort of the filmmakers of Capturing the Friedmans to prove the innocence of one of the film's subjects, Jesse Friedman. On Monday, a 168-page report released by the Nassau County District Attorney's office found that there was enough evidence to charge and convict Friedman of sexual molestation of minors.

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.

The Washington Post has more. (via @DavidGrann)

Exploding actressesJun 25 2013

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:

More videos and animated GIFs on the Exploding Actresses Tumblr. (via @scottlamb)

Very Semi-SeriousJun 21 2013

From filmmakers Leah Wolchok and Davina Pardo comes a documentary about New Yorker cartoons called Very Semi-Serious. They are soliciting funds to finish the film on Kickstarter.

New Yorker Kickstarter

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.

Prints of that cartoon are also available.

Hollywood Star ChartsJun 20 2013

New prints in the Dorothy shop: these really cool Hollywood Star Charts, available in Golden Age and Modern Day editions.

Hollywood Star Chart

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.

You may remember Dorothy from their movie name maps.

About an hour of Christian Marclay's The ClockJun 10 2013

Here are a few clips from Christian Marclay's The Clock that have been surreptitiously filmed and uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo.

The clips are crappy bootlegs that cut off part of the screen, but I still totally get sucked in after 30 seconds of each clip.

The evolution of the Star Wars logoMay 31 2013

An extensive examination of the evolution of the Star Wars logo, which went through too many iterations to count.

..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."

(via df)

The Act of KillingMay 28 2013

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.

Wow. (via @aaroncoleman0)

The watches of Fantastic Mr. FoxMay 22 2013

Of course the watches worn by the characters in Fantastic Mr. Fox are going to be classic 70s and 80s timepieces.

Watches, Fantastic Mr Fox

Meme star chartMay 16 2013

From XKCD, a chart of the memes that various star systems are just hearing from the Earth's light-speed communications.

Pop Culture Star Chart

This is the meme version of Contact's opening credits scene, which is one of my favorites:

List of NYC's outdoor summer moviesMay 15 2013

There are a lot of outdoor movies showing in NYC this summer: here's a listing of the whats, wheres, and whens. Movies include The Goonies, Jaws, Duck Soup, Moonrise Kingdom, Grease, and Blade Runner.

The themes and techniques of Steven SpielbergMay 10 2013

A nice short analysis by filmmaker Steven Benedict of the themes expressed and techniques used by Steven Spielberg in his films.

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in PicturesMay 10 2013

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:

You can also rent/buy on Amazon or rent/buy on iTunes.

Steven Soderbergh: The state of cinemaMay 07 2013

At the recent San Francisco Internation Film Festival, Steven Soderbergh gave a keynote about the current state of cinema. It is worth reading if you enjoy movies or are engaged in any sort of creative work.

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:

(via @MikeShefferNJ)

Upstream Color now available for purchase/downloadMay 07 2013

Upstream Color is now available for viewing, buying, and downloading with a wide array of options. Among them, DRM-free digital download, Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon, rent/buy at Amazon, and buy on iTunes.

The kids from Kids: where are they now?May 02 2013

Caroline Rothstein on how Kids came about and what happened to the young actors who starred in the film.

Two decades after a low-budget film turned Washington Square skaters into international celebrities, the kids from Kids struggle with lost lives, distant friendships, and the fine art of growing up.

An uncensored oral history of The HangoverMay 02 2013

The Hangover Part III is out later in the month and the Hollywood Reporter has an oral history of the making of the first two movies.

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.)

Obama as Daniel Day-Lewis as Obama in Spielberg's ObamaApr 29 2013

Steven Spielberg is doing a sequel to Lincoln called Obama and he got Daniel Day-Lewis to play the lead. I knew Day-Lewis was good, but this is bonkers.

The Central Park FiveApr 17 2013

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.

The entire film is available to watch on the PBS web site. Tonight, there's a TimesTalk in NYC featuring Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, Times columnist Jim Dwyer, and all five of the exonerated men; the talk will be broadcast live on the web here.

Documentary about actor and magician Ricky JayApr 11 2013

Deceptive Practice is a documentary about Ricky Jay which features, among other things, a shaggy-haired Jay playing Three-card Monte with Steve Martin on an 80s chat show.

Jay is a fascinating guy, as this 1993 New Yorker profile of him by Mark Singer demonstrates.

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.

The deuce of spades.

A small riot ensued.

Anyway, the film is coming out next week in NYC. (via @aaroncoleman0)

Oblivion soundtrack by M83Apr 11 2013

Oh hello, what's this? M83 did the soundtrack to Oblivion, the new sci-fi movie where Tom Cruise plays Wall-E? That will do quite nicely. Here it is on iTunes, Amazon, or Rdio.

Time travel is depressingApr 08 2013

In an interview last month with Esquire's Eric Spitznagel, Michel Gondry talked about his newest movie, The We and the I, and about how time travel is depressing.

ES: In your real life. If you, Michel Gondry, found a time machine and could go anywhere, to any period in history, where would you take it?

MG: I would travel back a few years ago and fix some screw-up I did.

ES: A personal or professional screw-up?

MG: In my personal life.

ES: Can you be more specific?

MG: I would come back and say yes to a girl. That's all. Actually, I find the whole idea of traveling back in time to be profoundly depressing.

ES: Really? Why so?

MG: Because I know the future. Living in the past, it would feel weird to know what's going to happen next. You couldn't escape it. That future's already in your head. You know it doesn't get better.

ES: You'd rather not know about the future?

MG: The future is about hope. If you travel from the present to the past, you don't have that hope anymore. You know how everything turns out.

ES: There are no surprises.

MG: No surprises, exactly! To me, that just sounds so... depressing.

Roger Ebert, RIPApr 04 2013

Earlier today, I linked to a post by Roger Ebert announcing his leave of presence. The Chicago Sun-Times has announced that Ebert died today at 70.

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.

Rest in peace, Roger. And fuck cancer.

Ebert's cancer is backApr 04 2013

Sad news from Chicago: Roger Ebert's cancer has returned and he's taking what he calls a "leave of presence" to focus on recovery and a few different projects.

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.

Love that first sentence. Get well soon, Roger.

Rdio introduces streaming video serviceApr 03 2013

Streaming music service Rdio (which I have been enjoying the hell out of for the past couple months1) is launching a streaming video service called Vdio.

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.

[1] 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.

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