kottke.org posts about movies

Cloud tank special effectsMar 25 2015

To simulate unusual cloud formations in movies (like Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Independence Day), special effects artists injected paint into tanks containing water with two different densities.

A cloud tank consists of a bottom layer of salt water and a top layer of fresh water and when various forms of liquid are injected into tank, clouds are produced. This was the common technique that Hollywood used for decades to capture supernatural weather.

The developer of the cloud tank effect, Scott Squires, wrote a post detailing how it was accomplished.

Next white liquid tempra paint is injected in the fresh water portion (top), usually just a few inches from the dividing line of the fresh and salt water. Think of a large syringe with an aquarium tube going into the water. When the tempra paint is injected it billows outward like cumulus clouds and will tend to sink a bit. But the salt water prevents it from going lower so the 'cloud' tends to flatten it's base on the salt water line and and billow outward, similar to real clouds based on air pressure levels. Avoid going below into the saltwater since the clouds will just drop to the bottom of tank.

The opening boulder scene from Raiders of the Lost ArkMar 25 2015

The Art of the Scene looks at how Raiders of the Lost Ark came to be and how the opening scene is the perfect introduction to the main character and the "look and feel" of the rest of the film.

I love that Lucas got the idea for the boulder from a Scrooge McDuck comic book. (via devour)

The sameness of Pixar's womenMar 24 2015

For years, one of the knocks on Pixar was the lack of main characters who are women in their movies. 2012's Brave and this summer's Inside Out have addressed this criticism to an extent1. But Alex of every flavored bean noticed that, in contrast to the diversity of male faces, female characters in Disney/Pixar's recent movies all have the same face.

Pixar Female Faces

Boys in animated movies have faces that are square, round, skinny, fat, alien-looking, handsome, and ugly. The only face that girls get to have is some round snub-nosed baby face. That's not right.

Great observation.

Update: This piece has generated some interesting comments on Good, including this one from Dan Povenmire, co-creator of Phineas and Ferb.

This is idiotic and obviously written by someone who (A) can't draw and (B) has an axe to grind. The female characters they show have very varied faces. Yes the face shapes are all softer feminine shapes, but they purposely didn't include female characters from those same movies with less feminine faces, like Edna Mode in The Incredibles, or the Witch or the Cook in Brave, or any of the older female characters, like the fairy godmother, or... whatever. All the princes and male romantic leads in these movies have the same face shape as well but NO, she takes old men and villains and comedy relief characters to "prove" how sexist animation is. This is just stupid.

If you want literally dozens of examples of other characters omitted from the list see the other comments below.

(via @ckoerner)

  1. Although the gender stereotypes on display in the first trailer for Inside Out is not helping matters.

Mike Tyson's crowdsourcing his best knockoutsMar 23 2015

Martin Scorsese is reportedly set to direct a biopic on Mike Tyson with Jamie Foxx in the title role. Tyson has compiled a video of each of his 44 knockouts and wants his fans' help in choosing his top 10 for Foxx to study.

The top 10 from this video are definite contenders.

Akira Kurosawa, a master of movementMar 23 2015

New Every Frame a Painting! In this installment, Tony Zhou shows how Akira Kurosawa used movement in his films to terrific effect.

The first and final frames of 55 filmsMar 20 2015

I really love this video featuring the opening and closing shots of fifty-five movies presented side-by-side, "First and Final Frames." Created by Jacob T. Swinney.

My favorites: "Tree of Life," "Raging Bull," "Melancholia."

Mad Max: Fury Road international trailer drops, explodes in your faceMar 19 2015

The "Mad Max: Fury Road" international trailer features fire and blood, colorful explosions, and Charlize Theron screaming. What a lovely day, indeed. BRB, I gotta go get in line.

(via This Isn't Happiness)

Tony Montana is selling his Scarface mansionMar 18 2015

Have you always dreamed of owning the home where Tony Montana married Elvira Hancock? The "Scarface" estate known as El Fureidis can be yours for only $34M.

scarface-house.jpg

But many of the classic features of the mansion are still in place: an 18-foot-high central dome adorned with 24-karat gold leaf in the Byzantine-style alcove, as well as a formal dining room ceiling depicting a scene of Alexander the Great conquering Persepolis in 330 B.C. (also designed with 24-karat gold leaf).

NB: The house isn't in Coral Gables, FL. It's in Montecito, CA.

Here's a relatively exhaustive exploration of "Scarface" shooting locations, including the elevator scene and the chainsaw scene. (via Damon Brown)

Fury end title sequenceMar 16 2015

I finally got a chance to watch "Fury" last weekend, and the part of the movie that was the most compelling to me was the end title sequence. The sequence terrifyingly captures the slamming chaos of war. (Contains graphic imagery.)

The main title sequence and the end title sequence were created by Greenhaus GFX.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of HeckMar 12 2015

HBO will premiere the critically acclaimed authorized documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck later this year on May 4. Here's the trailer:

Looks promising. The film is directed by Brett Morgen, who also did the excellent The Kid Stays in the Picture documentary about Robert Evans. And the name comes from a late-80s mixtape made by Cobain.

Back in Time, a Back to the Future documentaryMar 10 2015

2015 seems like a pretty good year to do a documentary about Back to the Future. Here's a trailer:

The scope of the film has changed since the project started -- it was originally just about the DeLorean Time Machine -- and so the production team has gone back to Kickstarter to fund completion of the film. (via @ystrickler)

New trailer for Inside OutMar 10 2015

Ok, I'm starting to feel better about Inside Out, Pixar's upcoming animated feature that takes place mostly inside the mind of a young girl. The first trailer featured a bunch of gender stereotypes and mostly left me scratching my head, but the second trailer is solid:

Zoolander and Hansel walk the runway at Paris Fashion WeekMar 10 2015

First the actual Michael Bolton pops up in Office Space and now Derek Zoolander and Hansel are walking an actual runway show during Paris Fashion Week:

A video posted by @erindoherty_glamour on

A video posted by @erindoherty_glamour on

Is this what we have to look forward to for the next 10 years, late-90s/early-00s media remixed for an aging and increasingly wealthy Generation X? Bring it on?

Update: Here's the video of the whole show; the Zoolander appearance happens right at the beginning.

And as if there were any doubt, the stunt was a promo for Zoolander 2, which will come out in 2016.

Update: At one point, Zoolander grabbed the phone out of someone's hand and walked with it. Here's the video of that.

The someone turns out to be Jerome Jarre, a big Vine star who gets paid by brands to do this sort of thing all the time so chances are it was staged. Sorry, there are no more genuine moments left, it's all fake from now on.

No-talent ass clownMar 10 2015

Funny or Die digitally inserted the singer Michael Bolton into Office Space, where he plays Michael Bolton, the Initech programmer.

(via devour)

The Century of the SelfMar 10 2015

From filmmaker Adam Curtis, a four-part documentary series on "how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy". Here's part one:

And continue with part 2, part 3, and part 4. Here is a good review:

This is a powerful and arresting documentary series -- I ended up watching all four episodes back to back in a marathon effort. It was that gripping. I had felt similarly about his more recent documentary about the rise of neo conservatism and arab fundamentalism and the similarity in their techniques for recruiting followers (and their mutual need of each other in that project) -- but 'The Century of the Self' (TCS from now on), is much grander in its scope. It seeks to analyse the different conceptions of the self in the twentieth century, and how these conceptions were ultimately used by corporations to manipulate consumers into purchasing their products. Curtis takes large swipes at corporate capitalism in this documentary, but his target is even wider than this -- he seeks to tell a story about the relationship between the differing conceptions of individualism and the capitalist, democratic institutions (corporations and governments) which organise themselves around these conceptions.

(thx, kyle)

Mr. HolmesMar 05 2015

In Mr. Holmes, Ian McKellen plays a post-retirement Sherlock Holmes who has moved to the country to take up beekeeping. Here's the trailer:

The year in movie soundtracks, 2014Mar 04 2015

For the New Yorker, Alex Ross writes about movie soundtracks, with an emphasis on the scores for the 2014 crop of films.

This year's Oscar nominations for Best Original Score did the field few favors, overlooking some significant work. Jonny Greenwood, increasingly known as much for his film music as for his contributions to Radiohead, has yet to be acknowledged by the Academy, despite his idiosyncratic, imaginative collaborations with the director Paul Thomas Anderson, most recently in "Inherent Vice." Jason Moran deserved a nod for his "Selma" score, which oscillates between subdued moods of hope and dread, avoiding the telltale gestures of the great-man bio-pic. (The Aaron Copland trumpet of lonely American power is in abeyance.) Most baffling was the omission of Mica Levi's score for "Under the Skin," which, like Greenwood's work for Anderson, moves from seething dissonance to eerie simplicity and back again.

I listen to movie soundtracks quite a bit; they're good to play while working. Here are a few I've enjoyed from 2014:

Errol Morris interviewedMar 03 2015

As part of Errol Morris Week on Grantland1, Alex Pappademas did a great interview with Morris about his work. Morris has interviewed serial killers, Holocaust deniers, rapists, and the architect of the Vietnam War but said that the person that most challenged his capacity for empathy was Donald Rumsfeld.

He's confident right now! He doesn't have to wait 100 or 500 years. He doesn't care. I really care whether I'm right or wrong. I really do care. And probably for lots of reasons. I don't want to be seen as a dumbass, I don't want to be seen as someone who believes in something that's absolutely false, untrue, something that can't be substantiated, checked. I believe that there's some deep virtue in pursuing truth. Maybe it's the highest virtue. I believe that. Whether you can attain it or not, you can pursue it. It can be a goal. It can be a destination. I don't believe that's Donald Rumsfeld's goal. I believe that Robert S. McNamara really wanted to understand what he had done and why he had done it. You know, we remain a mystery to ourselves, among the many, many, many other mysteries there are. And McNamara's struggle with his own past -- I was deeply moved by it. I think he's a war criminal, I think he sees himself as a war criminal, but I like him.

Update: Another recent interview, by Brin-Jonathan Butler, is being offered as a 99¢ Kindle Single.

  1. Yeah cool guys, but it's always Errol Morris Week here at kottke.org.

A Few Silent MenFeb 25 2015

Someone edited the courtroom scene from A Few Good Men and took out all the dialogue, leaving just the reaction shots. It's surprisingly coherent and dramatic.

See also Dr. Phil without dialogue and musicless music videos. (via @pieratt)

Philip Glass' soundtrack for Errol Morris' A Brief History of TimeFeb 23 2015

Brief History Of Time Soundtrack

Philip Glass did the soundtrack for A Brief History of Time, Errol Morris' documentary on Stephen Hawking, but it was never released as an album. Until earlier this month. Huzzah! Appears to only be available on iTunes -- couldn't find it on Amazon, Rdio, or Spotify -- and I wish they'd done more with that cover. Bleh.

Stock OscarsFeb 19 2015

From Dissolve, a video that recreates scenes from some Oscar winning movies using only stock footage.

The recreated movies include Gladiator, The Social Network, Jurassic Park, and 2001. See also their first effort at this sort of thing.

The sounds of TarantinoFeb 18 2015

A montage of hundreds of sounds from Quentin Tarantino's movies, from Zed drumming his fingers on top of the gimp's head in Pulp Fiction to the schiiiiing of The Bride's Hattori Hanzo sword in Kill Bill.

What are the Coen brothers trying to say?Feb 18 2015

From Steven Benedict, a short video essay featuring the characters from different Coen brothers' films talking to each other. According to Benedict, the dialogue reveals three main themes of their movies.

While other essays have assembled several recurring visual tropes: elevators, dogs, dream sequences, bathrooms etc., this essay has the characters talk to one another across the films so we can more clearly hear the Coens' dominant concerns: identity, miscommunication and morality. Taken as a trinity, these elements indicate that the Coens' true subject is the search for value in a random and amoral universe.

(via @khoi)

WooperFeb 12 2015

Wooper is a Robot Chicken parody of Looper, in which cartoon characters like Elmer Fudd are sent back in time to be killed because they can't show guns in children's cartoons anymore.

(via @gruber)

The problem with action movies todayFeb 11 2015

In this persuasive video, Chris Stuckmann argues that today's action movies are mostly bad and provides six reasons why.

His fifth point, the camerawork, drives him a little crazy.

Shakycam. Fucking shakycam. At some point, someone somewhere told Hollywood that people like incoherent incompetent camera work, blinding the audience with multiple cuts and assaulting us with nothing but a barrage of sound effects that are supposed to subconsciously tell us that something is happening on screen.

See also how to do action comedy from Every Frame a Painting and Chaos Cinema from Mattias Stork. (via devour)

LOTR's One Ring explainerFeb 10 2015

Here's a good explanation of what the One Ring from Lord of the Rings actually is and what it can do:

I transcribed a short passage from the video:

First, the ring tempts everyone (well, almost everyone) with promises that yes, this little ring can be a mighty weapon or a tool to reshape the world and gosh don't you just look like the best guy to use it. Let's go vanquish the powerful demigod who lives over there to get started, shall we? This is why the hobbits made great ring bearers, because they're pretty happy with the way things are and don't aspire to greatness. Of course, there's Gollum, who started out as a hobbit, but all things considered, he held out pretty well for a couple hundred years. Set the ring on the desk of most men and they wouldn't be able to finish their coffee before heading to Mordor to rule the world and do it right this time.

What's interesting about hearing of The Ring in this focused way is how it becomes a part of Tolkien's criticism of technology. The Ring does what every mighty bit of tech can do to its owner/user: makes them feel powerful and righteous. Look what we can do with this thing! So much! So much good! We are good therefore whatever we do with this will be good!

The contemporary idea of the tech startup is arguably the most seductive and powerful technology of the present moment, the One Ring of our times. It's not difficult to modify a few words in the passage above to make it more current:

First, the startup tempts everyone (well, almost everyone) with promises that yes, this little company can be a mighty weapon or a tool to reshape the world and gosh don't you just look like the best guy to use it. Let's go disrupt the powerful middleman who lives over there to get started, shall we? This is why the nerds made great ring bearers, because they're pretty happy with the way things are and don't aspire to greatness. Of course, there's Sergey and Larry, who started out as nerds, but all things considered, they held out pretty well for a decade. Set the ring on the desk of most men and they wouldn't be able to finish their mail-order espresso before heading to Silicon Valley to rule the world and do it right this time.

Ok, haha, LOL, and all that, but it's curious that nerds (and everyone else) shelled out billions of dollars to watch Peter Jackson's LOTR movies in the early 2000s in the aftermath of the dot com bust. Those were dark times...the power of the startup had just been lost after Kozmo's CEO Dave Isildur was slain by economists while delivering a single pint of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby to far reaches of the Outer Sunset and had not yet been rediscovered by Schachter, Butterfield, and Zuckerberg.

And these nerds, whose spines all tingled when Aragorn charged into the hordes of Mordor -- for Frodo! -- and whose eyes filled with tears when Frodo parted with Sam at the Grey Havens, came away from that movie experience siding with Boromir, Saruman, and Denethor, determined to seize that startup magic for themselves to disrupt all of the things, defeat the evil corporate middlemen, and reshape the world to be a better and more efficient place. And gosh don't you just look like the best guy to use it?

The 75 best-edited movies of all timeFeb 09 2015

From the Motion Picture Editors Guild, a list of the 75 best-edited movies of all time.

As for directors, Alfred Hitchcock is the most often cited, making the list 5 times (although not placing in the top 10), and spanning 3 decades. Right behind him are Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, both of whom made the list 4 times. Like Hitchcock, Spielberg's pictures were released over 3 decades. Coppola's pictures, however, were all released in the 1970s - with 2 in 1974 (the only director with 2 films in a single year). All of his pictures placed in the top 22 films, with 3 of them in the top 11. At the other end of the continuum, there were 33 years between Terrence Malick's 2 films on the list.

Directors Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese follow, with 3 films each making the cut. Tied with Malick for 2 pictures are Bob Fosse, William Friedkin, Akira Kurosawa, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Steven Soderbergh, Orson Welles and Bob Wise; all others received 1 mention.

The top ten:

1. "Raging Bull" (Thelma Schoonmaker, 1980)
2. "Citizen Kane" (Robert Wise, 1941)
3. "Apocalypse Now" (Lisa Fruchtman, Gerald B. Greenberg, Walter Murch, 1979)
4. "All That Jazz" (Alan Heim, 1979)
5. "Bonnie And Clyde" (Dede Allen, 1967)
6. "The Godfather" (William H. Reynolds, Peter Zinner, 1972)
7. "Lawrence of Arabia" (Anne V. Coates, 1962)
8. "Jaws" (Verna Fields, 1975)
9. "JFK" (Pietro Scalia, Joe Hutshing, 1991)
10. "The French Connection" (Gerald B. Greenberg, 1971)

You think of filmmaking as male dominated, but one thing I noticed about that top 10 right away: five women in the list, including three in the top five. (via hitfix)

Update: Women have been well-represented in film editing in part because the job began as menial labor.

For much of Hollywood history, there were virtually no filmmaking opportunities available to women other than screenwriting and acting -- with one major exception. Women have always been welcomed -- and in many quarters preferred by male directors -- as film editors, or "cutters," as they were originally known. In the early days, the job was regarded as menial labor, and it largely was. Cutters worked by hand, running film on reels with hand cranks and manually cutting and gluing together strips of it. (Moreover, they almost never received screen credit.) After the advent of the Moviola editing machine in 1924, the process became faster and easier, but was still tedious and low paying, which is why most cutters remained young, working-class women.

It was around this time that the job of cutting films became less about just maintaining proper continuity and more about being creative. The Russian films of Sergei Eisenstein introduced the concept of montage -- how "colliding" separate pieces of film together could advance a storyline and manipulate viewers' emotions -- and this approach became widely discussed and imitated the world over, not least of all by some of the more enterprising female cutters in America, some of whom, like Margaret Booth, began to experiment with leftover footage on the cutting room floor and proved to be quite inventive.

More on the early history here. (via @ironicsans)

Magic Mike XXL trailerFeb 04 2015

I liked Magic Mike and I hope this one is going to be as good, although no McConaughey hey hey girl, so I dunno.

And also, Soderbergh is not returning as director, although he is responsible for the movie's cinematography, editing, and even some camera operating.

Philip Glass, superhero composerFeb 03 2015

File this under #notfromtheonion: Philip Glass is co-composing the score for the new The Fantastic Four movie.

Ahead of 20th Century Fox's latest superhero reboot of The Fantastic Four, director Josh Trank has confirmed that composer Philip Glass will be scoring the forthcoming film with Marco Beltrami.

Trank, best known for his 2012 film Chronicle, spoke to Collider about his long time admiration for the composer, and said that he had been working with Glass for around a year on the film after contacting his manager.

Previous films scored by Glass include The Hours, Koyaanisqatsi, A Brief History of Time, and The Fog of War. But this actually isn't too much of a surprising departure for Glass...he did the scores for both Candyman and Candyman II, horror films based on a short story by Clive Barker.

The 50 best films of the 2010s (so far)Feb 03 2015

The Dissolve picks the 50 best films of the current decade. Picks 50-26, and picks 25-1. Boyhood, The Social Network, Under the Skin, and Inside Llewyn Davis all rank high. (via @khoi)

Human/computer partnerships are potentJan 30 2015

Tim Wu writes for the New Yorker about how Netflix uses a ~70/30 combination of data and human judgment to determine their recommendations and what shows/movies to make.

Over the years, however, I've started to wonder whether Netflix's big decisions are truly as data driven as they are purported to be. The company does have more audience data than nearly anyone else (with the possible exception of YouTube), so it has a reason to emphasize its comparative advantage. But, when I was reporting a story, a couple of years ago, about Netflix's embrace of fandom over mass culture, I began to sense that their biggest bets always seemed ultimately driven by faith in a particular cult creator, like David Fincher ("House of Cards"), Jenji Leslie Kohan ("Orange is the New Black"), Ricky Gervais ("Derek"), John Fusco ("Marco Polo"), or Mitchell Hurwitz ("Arrested Development"). And, while Netflix does not release its viewership numbers, some of the company's programming, like "Marco Polo," hasn't seemed to generate the same audience excitement as, say, "House of Cards." In short, I do think that there is a sophisticated algorithm at work here -- but I think his name is Ted Sarandos.

I presented Sarandos with this theory at a Sundance panel called "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Trust the Algorithm," moderated by Jason Hirschhorn, formerly of MySpace. Sarandos, very agreeably, wobbled a bit. "It is important to know which data to ignore," he conceded, before saying, at the end, "In practice, its probably a seventy-thirty mix." But which is the seventy and which is the thirty? "Seventy is the data, and thirty is judgment," he told me later. Then he paused, and said, "But the thirty needs to be on top, if that makes sense."

This reminds me of the situation in chess, where cyborg human/computer teams can beat computer- or human-only players in chess, although perhaps for not much longer.

Some of you will know that Average is Over contains an extensive discussion of "freestyle chess," where humans can use any and all tools available -- most of all computers and computer programs -- to play the best chess game possible. The book also notes that "man plus computer" is a stronger player than "computer alone," at least provided the human knows what he is doing. You will find a similar claim from Brynjolfsson and McAfee.

Computer chess expert Kenneth W. Regan has compiled extensive data on this question, and you will see that a striking percentage of the best or most accurate chess games of all time have been played by man-machine pairs. Ken's explanations are a bit dense for those who don't already know chess, computer chess, Freestyle and its lingo, but yes that is what he finds, click on the links in his link for confirmation. In this list for instance the Freestyle teams do very very well.

I wonder what the human/cyborg split is at Buzzfeed or Facebook? Or at food companies like McDonald's or Kraft? Or at Goldman Sachs?

NYC in 1981, a most violent yearJan 30 2015

The producers of A Most Violent Year, one of the year's most acclaimed movies, are doing something interesting to promote their film. They're running a blog that posts all sorts of media and information about NYC in 1981, the year the film is set. Today, they released a short documentary that features interviews with some people who were scraping together lives in NYC circa 1981. It's worth watching:

Featuring Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, performance artist and former Warhol Factory fixture Penny Arcade, actress Johnnie Mae, Harlem street-style legend Dapper Dan, auto body shop owner Nick Rosello, and trucking union rep Wayne Walsh.

The trailer for A Most Violent Year is here...I've heard good things about this one and hope to catch it soon.

The Hobbit: The Tolkien EditJan 22 2015

Someone called TolkienEditor has cut the three Peter Jackson The Hobbit movies down into a single 4-hour film and put the result up on BitTorrent. Their goal was to make the film hew more closely to the book, put the focus back on Bilbo as the main character, and to quicken the pace of the narrative.

The investigation of Dol Guldor has been completely excised, including the appearances of Radagast, Saruman and Galadriel. This was the most obvious cut, and the easiest to carry out (a testament to its irrelevance to the main narrative). Like the novel, Gandalf abruptly disappears on the borders of Mirkwood, and then reappears at the siege of the Lonely Mountain with tidings of an orc army.

The Tauriel-Legolas-Kili love triangle has also been removed. Indeed, Tauriel is no longer a character in the film, and Legolas only gets a brief cameo during the Mirkwood arrest. This was the next clear candidate for elimination, given how little plot value and personality these two woodland sprites added to the story. Dwarves are way more fun to hang out with anyway.

I enjoyed PJ's The Hobbit, particularly the second one, but my main criticism was the lack of focus on Bilbo. I couldn't rustle up any interest in the dwarves or their quest...they were a bunch of ex-rich dudes trying to get their money back. Bah! Martin Freeman was an amazing Bilbo and we just didn't get enough of him. (via @tcarmody)

Update: There is also a three-hour cut of the film that keeps even closer to the spirit of the book. (via @cdwarren)

Stephen Biesty's Incredible Cross-SectionsJan 21 2015

Stephen BiestyStephen BiestyStephen Biesty is a illustrator for books who draws "illustrations that are unrivaled for their ambitious scope and attention to detail". I love this but somehow I hadn't seen any of his apparently quite popular books. Many of them appear to be out of print, but there are some available on Amazon: Stephen Biesty's Incredible Cross-Sections, Stephen Biesty's Incredible Everything, and Into the Unknown.

Looking through these illustrations and also thinking about Richard Scarry's books, I'm reminded of the intricate cross-sections from Wes Anderson's movies. For instance, the boat from The Life Aquatic:

Life Aquatic Cross Section

Biesty's first book with this illustration style came out in 1992, the same year a 23-year-old Anderson shot his first short film, Bottle Rocket. But the director's first real use of the cross-section didn't happen until The Royal Tenenbaums in 2001, and even then it wasn't explicit...but the tour of the Tenenbaum house definitely felt detailed in the same way as Biesty's intricate cross-sectional drawings. I'm not the first person to draw parallels between Anderson's work and Scarry, but I wonder if Biesty is somewhere in there too. (via @aaroncoleman0)

Hermione Granger and the Goddamn PatriarchyJan 16 2015

Along with imagining Mary Poppins as one of Doctor Who's Time Lords, one of my favorite literary alternate realities is imagining Hermione Granger as the main character of the Harry Potter books. In 2011, Sady Doyle wrote a review of the books as if Rowling had focused on Hermione.

In Hermione, Joanne Rowling undermines all of the cliches that we have come to expect in our mythic heroes. It's easy to imagine Hermione's origin story as some warmed-over Star Wars claptrap, with tragically missing parents and unsatisfying parental substitutes and a realization that she belongs to a hidden order, with wondrous (and unsettlingly genetic) gifts. But, no: Hermione's normal parents are her normal parents. She just so happens to be gifted. Being special, Rowling tells us, isn't about where you come from; it's about what you can do, if you put your mind to it. And what Hermione can do, when she puts her mind to it, is magic.

Ditto for the whole "Chosen One" thing. Look: I've enjoyed stories that relied on a "Chosen One" mythology to convince us that the hero is worth our time. I liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer as much as anyone. But it's hard to deny that "Chosen Ones" are lazy writing. Why is this person the hero? Because everyone says he's the hero. Why does everyone say he's the hero? Because everyone says so, shut up, there's magic.

And more recently, Daniel Dalton had a more overtly feminist and humorous take.

It was clear that she was the one who was protecting Harry and Ron, and this was never more evident than when she revealed she could control time.

She'd been using her Time-Turner to attend twice the number of classes, but she agreed to use it to help Harry save his godfather, even though it meant she'd never be able to use it again.

She'd given up her greatest power for her best friend, because helping people made her feel good.

And though she hoped he understood the sacrifice she was making by letting her education slide, she knew he didn't. Because men.

Over the past year or so, I've been rereading the books and rewatching the movies with my kids through the Hermione-as-hero lens. And I've noticed that even without altering the story as Doyle and Dalton do, Hermione is by far the smartest, most loyal, and bravest young witch or wizard at Hogwarts. Harry has his moments but the kid had a rough and abusive childhood and so his principal talent is getting angry and doing stupid impulsive shit. Mainly, he's manipulated by Voldemort and Dumbledore into doing exactly what they want him to do, and he plays the part splendidly. On the other hand, Hermione is an amazing witch and has a real choice as to how she wants to apply her considerable talents. And she chooses goodness, friendship, and doing the right thing over comfort, power, and even her own family, every time. (via @djacobs)

The Grand Budapest Hotel, now in book formJan 15 2015

Grand Budapest Hotel Book

As an addendum to his 2013 book, The Wes Anderson Collection, Matt Zoller Seitz has written a book on Anderson's latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

This supplementary, one-volume companion to The Wes Anderson Collection (Abrams 2013) is the only book to take readers behind the scenes of The Grand Budapest Hotel, with in-depth interviews between Anderson and cultural critic and New York Times bestselling author Matt Zoller Seitz. Anderson shares the story behind the film's conception, the wide variety of sources that inspired it -- from author Stefan Zweig to filmmaker Ernst Lubitsch to photochrom landscapes from turn-of-the-century Middle Europe -- personal anecdotes about the making of the film, and other reflections on his filmmaking process.

Here's an interview with Seitz on the book and Inhabiting Wes Anderson's Universe. This new book will look good next to The Wes Anderson Collection and The Making of Fantastic Mr Fox on my bookshelf.

Update: Martin Venezky is the designer of the book and has shared some spreads from the book. Looks gorgeous.

Dr. Strangelove's opening title sequenceJan 15 2015

The Art of the Title covers the opening title sequence to Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove.

Notably, none of the aerial footage in the opening came from -- or was even made for -- Kubrick's film. The footage is all stock. Because it came from more than one stock reel, the sequence features multiple aircraft, including an angle from a KC-135 Stratotanker's refueling deck, which dates back to October 20, 1956 and came directly from the Boeing company. The sequence shows the KC-135 transferring its precious fluids to a B-52 Stratofortress, the colossal bomber featured later in the film. The phallic piece of machinery in the first shot, however, is not the refueling probe of a B-52 or of a KC-135, as one would assume, but possibly that of a Gloster Meteor jet fighter. Regardless, it is the first in a long line of sight gags and sex jokes sprinkled throughout the film.

Also included is a short interview with the title designer, Pablo Ferro.

David Ehrlich's top 25 films of 2014Jan 15 2015

David Ehrlich returns with a video montage of his 25 favorite movies of 2014. (Here's his 2013 video.)

His top 5:

5. Gone Girl
4. Nymphomaniac
3. Under The Skin
2. Inherent Vice
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

These year-end videos by Ehrlich are incredibly effective trailers for movies. Not just the individual films, but the whole idea of cinema itself. Having just watched this, I want to leave my office, head to the nearest theater and just watch movies all day.

8-bit Guardians of the GalaxyJan 14 2015

There a lots of videos of movies reimagined as 8-bit video games out there (Kill Bill, The Matrix, Pulp Fiction), but I'm posting the Guardians of the Galaxy one because of the excellent chiptune rendition of the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 soundtrack.

Hooked on a Feeling, beep beep doot doot... (via devour)

24 pieces of life advice from Werner HerzogJan 14 2015

Werner Herzog Bear

Paul Cronin's book of conversations with filmmaker Werner Herzog is called Werner Herzog - A Guide for the Perplexed. On the back cover of the book, Herzog offers a list of advice for filmmakers that doubles as general purpose life advice.

1. Always take the initiative.
2. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.
3. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey.
4. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.
5. Learn to live with your mistakes.
6. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern.
7. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it.
8. There is never an excuse not to finish a film.
9. Carry bolt cutters everywhere.
10. Thwart institutional cowardice.
11. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
12. Take your fate into your own hands.
13. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape.
14. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory.
15. Walk straight ahead, never detour.
16. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver.
17. Don't be fearful of rejection.
18. Develop your own voice.
19. Day one is the point of no return.
20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class.
21. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema.
22. Guerrilla tactics are best.
23. Take revenge if need be.
24. Get used to the bear behind you.

I bet this is some of the stuff you learn at Herzog's Rogue Film School:

The Rogue Film School is not for the faint-hearted; it is for those who have travelled on foot, who have worked as bouncers in sex clubs or as wardens in a lunatic asylum, for those who are willing to learn about lockpicking or forging shooting permits in countries not favoring their projects. In short: for those who have a sense of poetry. For those who are pilgrims. For those who can tell a story to four year old children and hold their attention. For those who have a fire burning within. For those who have a dream.

Soderbergh's edit of 2001Jan 14 2015

So. Steven Soderbergh has cut his own version of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like, !!!1

I haven't had a chance to watch this yet, so I don't know what's different about it aside from the shorter runtime of 1h50m. If someone watches it and wants to report in about the differences, let me know. Soderbergh also guessed that Kubrick would have liked shooting on digital:

let me also say i believe SK would have embraced the current crop of digital cameras, because from a visual standpoint, he was obsessed with two things: absolute fidelity to reality-based light sources, and image stabilization. regarding the former, the increased sensitivity without resolution loss allows us to really capture the world as it is, and regarding the latter, post-2001 SK generally shot matte perf film (normally reserved for effects shots, because of its added steadiness) all day, every day, something which digital capture makes moot. pile on things like never being distracted by weaving, splices, dirt, scratches, bad lab matches during changeovers, changeovers themselves, bad framing and focus exacerbated by projector vibration, and you can see why i think he might dig digital.

See also Soderbergh's B&W edit of Raiders of the Lost Ark. (via @fengypants)

Update: Reader and 2001 fan Dan Norquist watched Soderbergh's edit and reported back via email:

I love everything Soderbergh does and I love the fact that he cut this film. It's fun to see it in a more concise form. Really, there's no choppy edits or anything that doesn't make sense (except the whole movie of course!). I did miss some of my favorite parts. I love when the father is talking to his daughter on the video phone. Also, if you weren't around in 1968 it's really hard to describe how scary the Cold War was. There was always this thing hanging over our heads, that the Russians really had the means to destroy us with nuclear weapons. So you really need the full scene where the American meets the Russians (Soviets). The forced, unnatural politeness is so brilliant and helped to give the film context in its time.

All the important stuff is there -- the apes, the monolith, HAL turning evil, astronaut spinning away, the speeding light show (shortened?), old man pointing at space child -- and it's all recut by a master.

Finally, there is something about the full length of the original film that is part of its strength as a piece of art. There is no hurry, no cut to the chase. It's almost as if you have to go through the entire journey before you can earn the bubble baby at the end.

No surprise that he tightened it up into something less Kubrickian and more Soderberghish. Dan closed his email by saying he would recommend it to fans of the original. (thx, dan)

Update: I've seen some comments on Twitter and elsewhere about the legality of Soderbergh posting the 2001 and Raiders edits. The videos are hosted on Vimeo, but are private and can't be embedded on any site other than Soderbergh's. But any enterprising person can easily figure out how to download either video. The Raiders video has been up since September, which means either that Paramount doesn't care (most likely in my mind) or their lawyers somehow haven't caught wind of it, even though it was all over the internet a few months ago (less likely). We'll see if whoever owns the rights to 2001 (Time Warner?) feels similarly.

An interesting wrinkle here is that Soderbergh has been outspoken about copyright piracy and the Internet. From a 2009 NY Times article about a proposed French anti-piracy law:

In the United States, a Congressional committee this week began studying the issue. In a hearing Monday before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, Steven Soderbergh, the film director, cited the French initiative in asking lawmakers to deputize the American film industry to pursue copyright pirates.

Deputizing the film industry to police piracy sounds a little too much like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. I wonder if Soderbergh feels like these edits are legal to post publicly, if they are fair use for example. Or rather if he feels it's not but he can get away with it because he is who he is. (thx, @bc_butler)

Update: Soderbergh has removed his cut of 2001 from his site "AT THE REQUEST OF WARNER BROS. AND THE STANLEY KUBRICK ESTATE". So, that answers that question. (via @fengypants)

  1. I also found out that apparently I had jury duty last week on the same day in the same room as Soderbergh. Total embarrassing fanboy meltdown narrowly avoided.

80s tech and Back to the FutureJan 13 2015

In his piece on Back to the Future trilogy, Tim Carmody focuses not on the 2015 future of the movies (hoverboards, self-drying jackets, Mr. Fusion) but on what the movies can tell us about technology in the 1980s. This riff on Back to the Future's cassette tape method of time travel is quite clever:

I sometimes call this "the cassette era," and sure enough, cassettes are everywhere. Marty has a Walkman, a camcorder, and an audition tape for his band; the Pinheads have recorded a demo even though they've never played in front of an audience.

As a material support for a medium, the cassette has certain advantages and disadvantages. It's more portable and sturdy than reels or records, and it requires less user interaction or expertise. It requires very fine interactions of miniaturized technology, both mechanical and electronic, in the form of transistors, reading heads, and so forth. Magnetic tape can actually record information as digital or analog, so it's curiously agnostic in that respect.

Cassettes can also be easily rewound or fast forward. It's easy to synchronize and dub the contents of one cassette onto another. And users can easily erase or rerecord information over the same tape.

This has clear implications for how we think - and especially, how our predecessors thirty years ago thought-about time travel. It is no accident that many important time travel films, including the Terminator franchise, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, and yes, the Back to the Future movies, appear at this time. In all three cases, time travel is accomplished with a technological mechanism that allows its users precise control of where they arrive in the timestream. (In earlier time travel stories, travellers slide down a river or awake from a dream, but in the 1980s, the H.G. Wells/Doctor Who conception of time travel through a technological device pretty definitively wins out.) And in all three cases, the goal of time travel is to save and/or rewrite events within a specific person's lifetime, without which a future timeline will cease to exist.

Matthew McConaughey's Dazed and Confused audition tapeJan 13 2015

Here's Matthew McConaughey doing a proto-Wooderson for his Dazed and Confused audition.

(via devour)

Behind the scenes of The Lego MovieJan 13 2015

Nice four-minute video about how the creators of The Lego Movie used CGI to make the movie look like it was 100% constructed with real Lego bricks with fingerprints and everything and animated in stop motion.

I've watched it twice with my kids, and The Lego Movie was way better than it had any right to be. They so easily could have bollocksed the whole thing up. Maybe the secret is Chris Pratt? Guardians of the Galaxy was better than it should have been as well. I'm bearish on Jurassic World, but come on Indy! (via devour)

Akira Kurosawa's 100 favorite moviesJan 12 2015

After he died, a book containing legendary movie director Akira Kurosawa's 100 favorite films was published. The list was made by his daughter, arranged chronologically, and limited to one film per director. His daughter describes the selection process:

The principle of the choice is: one film for one director, entry of the unforgettable films about which I and my father had a lovely talk, and of some ideas on cinema that he had cherished but did not express in public.

Some of Kurosawa's choices: My Neighbor Totoro for Miyazaki, The King of Comedy for Scorsese (?), Annie Hall for Woody Allen, Fitzcarraldo for Herzog, Barry Lyndon for Kubrick (??), and The Birds for Hitchcock. No Orson Welles, Coens, David Lynch, or Malick.

Interview with Wes Anderson's cinematographerJan 09 2015

Robert Yeoman has been the cinematographer for all of Wes Anderson's movies, save for the stop-motion The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Kyle Buchanan at Vulture talked to Yeoman about how he shot nine iconic scenes from Anderson's films. Of the one-take shot near the end of The Royal Tenenbaums:

We had to triple up on scenes from The Royal Tenenbaums just so we could include this subtly marvelous shot from the finale of the film, where the camera drifts from character to character in the aftermath of an accident. "There were a lot of moving parts, and it was very difficult - Wes was determined to get it in one take and didn't want to make a cut, so we did, I think, about 20 takes of it," says Yeoman, who mounted a crane arm to a dolly for fluid movement. "The tough part is that it ends with a very emotional moment between Gene Hackman and Ben Stiller, and this scene was so difficult technically - things didn't always happen when we wanted them to happen, and we'd have to cut - that it's a testament to Gene and Ben that they were able to hang in there and really deliver on take 20." What was going wrong before then? "I don't want to name names, but there was one actor about two thirds of the way through it who kept blowing his lines, and we'd have to start over again," says Yeoman. "That was a little frustrating, especially because Gene and Ben were waiting there, getting themselves to a certain place emotionally. I felt bad for them, but that's just part of making films."

(thx, greg)

Steven Soderbergh's 2014 media dietJan 09 2015

Once again, Steven Soderbergh kept track of every book, TV show, movie, play, and short story he read or watched in 2014. A sampling: Girls, True Detective, Gone Girl, 2001 (3 times), Dr. Strangelove, Olive Kitteridge, My Struggle: Book One, Boardwalk Empire, and his black & white version of Raiders of the Lost Ark (twice).

Here are his lists for 2013 (House of Cards, Koyaanisqatsi), 2012 (This is Spinal Tap, The Lady in the Lake), 2011 (Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Senna), 2010 (Mad Men, Where Good Ideas Come From), and 2009 (Breaking Bad, Slap Shot). (via @khoi)

The possibilities of Hayao MiyazakiJan 05 2015

From Mike Hale in the NY Times, a short appreciation of Hayao Miyazaki, among the best filmmakers of his generation.

Even at its high end, in the works of the Pixar studio or the director Henry Selick, the American children's movie (a category that these days is pretty much congruent with the animated feature film) approaches its young viewers in a different and less rewarding way. There is always a sense of the filmmakers looking across a divide at their audience, trying with various degrees of grace or desperation to create an entertainment for them, to figure out what will keep those allegedly hyperdistracted children from losing interest.

Mr. Miyazaki cares deeply about that young audience, but you get the feeling that he doesn't waste any time trying to guess what it wants. Like other great directors of films for and about children -- Carroll Ballard ("The Black Stallion") Steven Spielberg ("E.T."), Alfonso Cuaron ("A Little Princess" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban") -- he inhabits the child's point of view and directly communicates her joys, her trepidations and, perhaps most important, her endless curiosity.

The top 10 film/TV title sequences of 2014Dec 31 2014

From the excellent Art of the Title (which had a great year), the top 10 title sequences of 2014. So awesome to see Halt and Catch Fire take the top spot. And Too Many Cooks!

Clever end credits for The Boxtrolls shows how stop motion worksDec 29 2014

The end credits for The Boxtrolls, a stop motion animation film by Laika, is a clever time lapse sequence showing the work that goes into moving the characters. You can tell how long it takes by how often the animator's outfit changes.

Christopher Jobson of Colossal writes:

I first saw Boxtrolls in the theater last September with my son, and this single scene caused a more vocal response from the audience than any other moment in the entire movie. People were literally gasping, myself included.

The Boxtrolls is already available for purchase on Amazon...might have to watch this with the kids soon.

My favorite movie scene of 2014Dec 27 2014

Hiro teaching Baymax how to fist bump in Big Hero 6.

Update: Jason Porath smartly speculates that Big Hero 6's fist bump scene was a social media snack sized moment inserted into the movie for marketing purposes, which is part of a larger industry trend.

I don't have a good word to describe this phenomenon, so I'm going to term it "hashgags." This is a joke in an animated movie, usually input at the behest of marketing forces, that is used to sell the movie. It's usually inserted late into production and test screened to within an inch of its life. Some are used repeatedly, some are one-offs that do well with trailers. And it is crippling the entire industry.

How to do action comedyDec 23 2014

From Tony Zhou's Every Frame a Painting, an appreciation of Jackie Chan and his particular and excellent brand of action comedy.

I love old Jackie Chan movies. When I lived in Minneapolis, a theater there showed them on Saturday nights, late. Drunken Master II is a particular favorite...the final fight scene is AMAZING. The part about how the camera never moves and shoots wide-angle during his scenes is why action in contemporary Hollywood films leaves me yawning.

Princess Mononoke on Blu-rayDec 22 2014

Princess Mononoke

When I first saw it during the magical movie year of 1999, Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke completely blew me away. Now that it's (finally!) out on Blu-ray1, I can't wait to see it again. Bonus: the ability to watch in the original Japanese with English subtitles.

  1. Who out there is still buying Blu-ray? I buy one occasionally but only when I really really care about the picture quality. Otherwise, streaming off of Amazon, iTunes, or Netflix is fine.

Ayn Rand reviews kids' moviesDec 18 2014

From Mallory Ortberg, some reviews of children's movies penned by objectivist Ayn Rand.

"Mary Poppins"

A woman takes a job with a wealthy family without asking for money in exchange for her services. An absurd premise. Later, her employer leaves a lucrative career in banking in order to play a children's game. -No stars.

The original score for 2001: A Space OdysseyDec 18 2014

During the production of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick commissioned well-known film score composer Alex North to do the score for the film. North had previously done scores for A Streetcar Named Desire, Spartacus, Cleopatra, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and later received an honorary Oscar for his lifetime of work. As production progressed, Kubrick began to feel that the temporary music he used to edit the film was more appropriate. From an interview with Kubrick by Michel Ciment:

However good our best film composers may be, they are not a Beethoven, a Mozart or a Brahms. Why use music which is less good when there is such a multitude of great orchestral music available from the past and from our own time? When you're editing a film, it's very helpful to be able to try out different pieces of music to see how they work with the scene. This is not at all an uncommon practice. Well, with a little more care and thought, these temporary music tracks can become the final score. When I had completed the editing of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I had laid in temporary music tracks for almost all of the music which was eventually used in the film. Then, in the normal way, I engaged the services of a distinguished film composer to write the score. Although he and I went over the picture very carefully, and he listened to these temporary tracks (Strauss, Ligeti, Khatchaturian) and agreed that they worked fine and would serve as a guide to the musical objectives of each sequence he, nevertheless, wrote and recorded a score which could not have been more alien to the music we had listened to, and much more serious than that, a score which, in my opinion, was completely inadequate for the film.

And so the temporary music became the iconic score we know today. For comparison, here's how North's original score would have sounded over the opening credits and initial scene:

Selections from North's original score were later released publicly. Here's a 38-minute album on Rdio:

Kubrick was absolutely right to ditch North's score...it's perfectly fine music but totally wrong for the movie, not to mention it sounds totally dated today. The classical score gives the film a timeless quality, adding to the film's appeal and reputation more than 45 years later. (via @UnlikelyWorlds)

Update: Two additional facets to this story. North first learned that Kubrick ditched his score at the NYC premiere of the film; he was reportedly (and understandably) "devastated". And even when Kubrick was artistically satisfied with the music he chose, negotiations to procure the rights weren't necessarily smooth.

2) Kubrick's associates did obtain licenses from Ligeti's publishers and from record and radio companies, although they were not forthcoming about the pivotal role assigned to the music in the film; 3) Ligeti learned about the use of his music not from his publishers but from members of the Bavarian Radio Chorus; 4) he attended a showing of the film with stopwatch in hand, furiously scribbling down timings -- thirty-two minutes in all;

Kubrick was undoubtably of the "shoot first, ask questions later" school of negotiation. (via @timrosenberg)

The Kingdom of Dreams and MadnessDec 18 2014

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness is a documentary which presents a year in the life of Studio Ghibli and its famed director, Hayao Miyazaki. The year in question was a particularly interesting one during which Miyazaki announced his retirement. The trailer:

Granted near-unfettered access to the notoriously insular Studio Ghibli, director Mami Sunada follows the three men who are the lifeblood of Ghibli -- the eminent director Hayao Miyazaki, the producer Toshio Suzuki, and the elusive and influential "other director" Isao Takahata -- over the course of a year as the studio rushes to complete two films, Miyazaki's The Wind Rises and Takahata's The Tale of The Princess Kaguya. The result is a rare "fly on the wall" glimpse of the inner workings of one of the world's most celebrated animation studios, and an insight into the dreams, passion and singular dedication of these remarkable creators.

(via @garymross)

Update: The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness is now available for rent/buy on Amazon and iTunes.

Zoolander 0.9 betaDec 17 2014

Somehow I didn't know that Zoolander (which Terrence Malick and I both love and Roger Ebert hated) began as a short clip Ben Stiller did for the 1996 VH1 Fashion Awards.

(via the dissolve)

Inherent Vice soundtrackDec 17 2014

The soundtrack for PT Anderson's Inherent Vice is now on Spotify, well all except for one song. The album is even more partially on Rdio. For the whole thing, you'll have to head to Amazon.

The fifth track, Spooks, is a variation of a Radiohead song that's never been officially released. (via @naserca)

The best behavioral economics of 2014 moviesDec 17 2014

Legal scholar Cass Sunstein presents his annual list of the movies that best showcased behavioral economics for 2014.

Best actor: In 1986, behavioral scientists Daniel Kahneman and Dale Miller developed "norm theory," which suggests that humans engage in a lot of counterfactual thinking: We evaluate our experiences by asking about what might have happened instead. If you miss a train by two minutes, you're likely to be more upset than if you miss it by an hour, and if you finish second in some competition, you might well be less happy than if you had come in third.

"Edge of Tomorrow" spends every one of its 113 minutes on norm theory. It's all about counterfactuals -- how small differences in people's actions produce big changes, at least for those privileged to relive life again (and again, and again). Tom Cruise doesn't get many awards these days, or a lot of respect, and we're a bit terrified to say this -- but imagine how terrible we'd feel if we didn't: The Top Gun wins the Becon.

(via @tylercowen)

The Terminator ParadoxDec 16 2014

Finally, courtesy of the Auralnauts, we get the Terminator trailer that we deserve. Time travel is hilarious.

I wish we could send you back with pants, but the technology just isn't there yet. So as soon as you hit the ground, you're going to want to find some pants. I know you can do it...because you already did it.

Like the old wives' tale says, if you want to fix the future, just keep sending Terminators back in time. (via @mouser_nerdbot)

The best movie posters of 2014Dec 16 2014

Adrian Curry selects his favorites for the best movie posters of 2014. This one, for Gabe Polsky's Red Army, caught my eye:

Red Army Poster

See also the best poster lists from Empire, Entertainment Weekly, and Indiewire. (via subtraction)

Knight of CupsDec 16 2014

Woo! New Terrence Malick film! Knight of Cups stars Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Natalie Portman with cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, who also did Children of Men, Gravity, Birdman, and Malick's The Tree of Life. Here's the trailer:

The Tree of Life *wrecked* me.

An oral history of Boogie NightsDec 10 2014

Every once in awhile on the site, I'll use the phrase "in my wheelhouse", meaning something that is particularly interesting to me. Well, Grantland's long oral history of the making of Boogie Nights is so in my wheelhouse that I might be the captain.

When [Anderson] set out to film Boogie Nights, it was with a resolve bordering on arrogance. Compromise wasn't part of the plan. Still, after an intense production and postproduction period -- one in which the director had to manage a cranky, confused Burt Reynolds and an untested, rapping underwear model named Mark Wahlberg -- Anderson was forced once again to fight studio heads for his cut of the film.

But Anderson's vision prevailed this time. Nearly 20 years later, Boogie Nights endures. For its beautiful portrait of nontraditional families; for Reynolds and Wahlberg, the surrogate father and son, who were never better; for Philip Seymour Hoffman, squeezing into character and breaking hearts; for its prodigy director sticking to his guns and nailing it; for John C. Reilly's hot-tub poetry; for Roller Girl. Is everybody ready? This is the making and near unmaking of Boogie Nights.

Man, I love that movie. But think on this: Leonardo DiCaprio as Dirk Diggler, Drew Barrymore as Roller Girl, and Bill Murray as Jack Horner.

A cinematic tribute to spaceDec 08 2014

A tribute to outer space in movies, featuring clips from Gravity, The Fountain, Alien, Star Wars, Solaris, Sunshine, Guardians of the Galaxy, and more.

Music is from Hans Zimmer's soundtrack for Interstellar, which I was initially lukewarm on but have been listening to consistently over the past week or so. (via devour)

The Star Wars API and Star Wars as a genreDec 08 2014

SWAPI is a new web service will use a RESTful interface to return JSON about the "Planets, Spaceships, Vehicles, People, Films and Species" from all six of the Star Wars movies. This API would be really useful if Disney would have done as Matt Webb suggested and turned Star Wars into a genre rather than a franchise.

Imagine, imagine if Disney had said: Star Wars isn't a franchise, it's a genre.

The legendary galaxy, a long time ago, far far away, is well understood: What's true is what's in the Holocron continuity database.

Open the Holocron. Show everyone what's in it. Let it become history.

Then let anyone make movies and books that share the Star Wars world. Not like all those other franchises that argue about what's canon and what's not... rise above it, become a new shared set of conventions, formulas, history and myth, just like the western but for the 21st century.

My friend David suggested something similar with Harry Potter a few years ago...open it up and let any director take a shot at making Potter movies. Open source franchises.

2001 exploredDec 05 2014

Worth a listen: a 30-minute BBC Radio show on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Francine journeys through time and space to uncover the mysteries of this 1968 classic. Searching for the mind of H.A.L. and lost alien worlds among the delights of the Stanley Kubrick Archive at London's University of the Arts. Joining Francine on her voyage of discovery are 2001 chronicler Piers Bizony, former urbane spaceman Keir Dullea and the woman who built the moon! Other voices include production designer Harry Lange, make-up genius Stuart Freeborn, editor Ray Lovejoy, all now so much stardust, as well as those of lead ape 'Moonwatcher' (Dan Richter) & Stargate deviser Douglas Trumbull.

The typography of AlienDec 03 2014

The excellent Typeset in the Future covers the typography in Ridley Scott's Alien.

Alien Typography

Previously 2001: A Space Odyssey and Moon. (via df)

The Movies and Reality by Virginia WoolfDec 03 2014

From the August 4, 1926 issue of The New Republic, here's an essay about film by author Virginia Woolf, published the year before the release of the first talkie.

People say that the savage no longer exists in us, that we are at the fag-end of civilization, that everything has been said already, and that it is too late to be ambitious. But these philosophers have presumably forgotten the movies. They have never seen the savages of the twentieth century watching the pictures. They have never sat themselves in front of the screen and thought how, for all the clothes on their backs and the carpets at their feet, no great distance separates them from those bright-eyed, naked men who knocked two bars of iron together and heard in that clangor a foretaste of the music of Mozart.

The bars in this case, of course, are so highly wrought and so covered over with accretions of alien matter that it is extremely difficult to hear anything distinctly. All is hubble-bubble, swarm and chaos. We are peering over the edge of a cauldron in which fragments of all shapes and savors seem to simmer; now and again some vast form heaves itself up, and seems about to haul itself out of chaos. Yet, at first sight, the art of the cinema seems simple, even stupid. There is the King shaking hands with a football team; there is Sir Thomas Lipton's yacht; there is Jack Horner winning the Grand National. The eye licks it all up instantaneously, and the brain, agreeably titillated, settles down to watch things happening without bestirring itself to think.

Trailer for Shaun the Sheep movieDec 01 2014

I am still very much looking forward to the Shaun the Sheep movie, but the first official trailer is not inspiring much confidence:

Yeesh. That makes it look like The Smurfs movie or something. Movie company marketing departments don't seem to know what to do with quirky stuff like Shaun or Wallace & Gromit. Has an Aardman movie ever had a good trailer? (via digg)

George Lucas' Special Edition of the Star Wars: Episode VII TrailerNov 30 2014

What if George Lucas was making the new Star Wars movie instead of JJ Abrams? This recut trailer offers a glimpse of the cheesy CG madness.

So so good.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailerNov 28 2014

Here it is, the very first look at JJ Abrams' new Star Wars movie.

Not ashamed to say I felt chills down my spine when the music kicked in. Please please please let this not suck.

Update: From the teaser, it's a little early to tell whether Abrams is following these four rules to make Star Wars great again (1. The setting is the frontier. 2. The future is old. 3. The Force is mysterious. 4. Star Wars isn't cute.) but there are hints of 1&2 in there...they're still driving those old rust-bucket X-Wings and wearing beat-up helmets.

How Star Wars Conquered the UniverseNov 20 2014

In his recent book, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, Chris Taylor tells the story of how avant garde cinema fan George Lucas built one of the biggest movie franchises ever.

How did a few notes scribbled on a legal pad in 1973 by George Lucas, a man who hated writing, turn into a four billion dollar franchise that has quite literally transformed the way we think about entertainment, merchandizing, politics, and even religion? A cultural touchstone and cinematic classic, Star Wars has a cosmic appeal that no other movie franchise has been able to replicate. From Jedi-themed weddings and international storm-trooper legions, to impassioned debates over the digitization of the three Star Wars prequels, to the shockwaves that continue to reverberate from Disney's purchase of the beloved franchise in 2012, the series hasn't stopped inspiring and inciting viewers for almost forty years. Yet surprisingly little is known about its history, its impact -- or where it's headed next.

(via mr)

Moonrise Kingdom typefaceNov 20 2014

Tilda Font

Jessica Hische and Font Bureau have teamed up to offer the typeface Hische designed for Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. Meet Tilda (great name). Art of the Title interviewed Hische about the typeface last year.

The sounds of InterstellarNov 19 2014

A look at the sound design of Interstellar, including some of the cool rigs they built to record sounds for the movie, including a truck driving through a corn field, sand hitting the outside of a car, and robots walking.

(via devour)

The Imitation Game soundtrackNov 18 2014

I have not seen the movie yet (Alan Turing biopic starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley) but the Alexandre Desplat soundtrack is worth a listen.

Also available on Spotify or Amazon.

FoxcatcherNov 17 2014

Whoa, how did I miss this? Steve Carell, check. Channing Tatum, check. Mark Ruffalo, check. Based on a true story, check. Positive reviews, check.

Currently on the to-do list: watch every single movie produced by Annapurna Pictures, a production and distribution company founded by Megan Ellison, who is Oracle founder Larry Ellison's daughter. Look at this list of directors they're working with: Kathryn Bigelow, Paul Thomas Anderson, Spike Jonze, David O. Russell, Richard Linklater.

_____ and JuliaNov 17 2014

Nora Ephron's movie Julie & Julia is based on a book by Julie Powell about her making every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Some genius took the movie and cut all the Julie parts out of it, leaving just a movie about the life of Julia Child starring Meryl Streep.

Update: Well, that was fast...got taken down already.

Update: Looks like someone did a similar cut three months ago, Julia Sans Julie:

Let's see how long this one lasts. (via ★interesting & @ChadwickSevern)

Posters for imagined movie sequelsNov 14 2014

Iron Giants Poster

I am loving these posters for non-existent movie sequels, but the names might be even better. A sampling:

Fight Club: The 2nd Rule
Bigger Trouble in Little China
Spaceballs III: The Search for Spaceballs II
Titanic 2: Above Zero

Prints are available for all of these. (via @cabel)

The science of InterstellarNov 10 2014

Kip Thorne is a theoretical physicist who did some of the first serious work on the possibility of travel through wormholes. Several years ago, he resigned as the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics from Caltech in part to make movies. To that end, Thorne acted as Christopher Nolan's science advisor for Interstellar. As a companion to the movie, Thorne wrote a book called The Science of Interstellar.

Yet in The Science of Interstellar, Kip Thorne, the physicist who assisted Nolan on the scientific aspects of Interstellar, shows us that the movie's jaw-dropping events and stunning, never-before-attempted visuals are grounded in real science. Thorne shares his experiences working as the science adviser on the film and then moves on to the science itself. In chapters on wormholes, black holes, interstellar travel, and much more, Thorne's scientific insights -- many of them triggered during the actual scripting and shooting of Interstellar -- describe the physical laws that govern our universe and the truly astounding phenomena that those laws make possible.

Wired has a piece on how Thorne and Nolan worked together on the film. Phil Plait was unimpressed with some of the science in the movie, although he retracted some of his criticism. If you're confused by the science or plot, Slate has a FAQ.

Update: Well, well, the internet's resident Science Movie Curmudgeon Neil deGrasse Tyson actually liked the depiction of science in Interstellar. In particular: "Of the leading characters (all of whom are scientists or engineers) half are women. Just an FYI." (via @thoughtbrain)

Update: What's wrong with "What's Wrong with the Science of Movies About Science?" pieces? Plenty says Matt Singer.

But a movie is not its marketing; regardless of what 'Interstellar''s marketing said, the film itself makes no such assertions about its scientific accuracy. It doesn't open with a disclaimer informing viewers that it's based on true science; in fact, it doesn't open with any sort of disclaimer at all. Nolan never tells us exactly where or when 'Interstellar' is set. It seems like the movie takes place on our Earth in the relatively near future, but that's just a guess. Maybe 'Interstellar' is set a million years after our current civilization ended. Or maybe it's set in an alternate dimension, where the rules of physics as Phil Plait knows them don't strictly apply.

Or maybe 'Interstellar' really is set on our Earth 50 years in the future, and it doesn't matter anyway because 'Interstellar' is a work of fiction. It's particularly strange to see people holding 'Interstellar' up to a high standard of scientific accuracy because the movie is pretty clearly a work of stylized, speculative sci-fi right from the start.

(via @khoi)

Chappie and the computing rights movementNov 04 2014

Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) is coming out with a new film in the spring, Chappie. Chappie is a robot who learns how to feel and think for himself. According to Entertainment Weekly, two of the movie's leads are Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord, who play a pair of criminals who robotnap Chappie.

Discussions of AI are particularly hot right now (e.g. see Musk and Bostrom) and filmmakers are using the opportunity to explore AI in film, as in Her, Ex Machina, and now Chappie.

Blomkamp, with his South African roots, puts a discriminatory spin on AI in Chappie, which is consistent with his previous work. If robots can think and feel for themselves, what sorts of rights and freedoms are they due in our society? Because right now, they don't have any...computers and robots do humanity's bidding without any compensation or thought to their well-being. Because that's an absurd concept, right? Who cares how my Macbook Air feels about me using it to write this post? But imagine a future robot that can feel and think as well as (or, likely, much much faster than) a human...what might it think about that? What might it think about being called "it"? What might it decide to do about that? Perhaps superintelligent emotional robots won't have human feelings or motivations, but in some ways that's even scarier.

The whole thing can be scary to think about because so much is unknown. SETI and the hunt for habitable exoplanets are admirable scientific endeavors, but humans have already discovered alien life here on Earth: mechanical computers. Boole, Lovelace, Babbage, von Neumann, and many others contributed to the invention of computing and those machines are now evolving quickly, and hardware and software both are evolving so much faster than our human bodies (hardware) and culture (software) are evolving. Soon enough, perhaps not for 20-30 years still but soon, there will be machines among us that will be, essentially, incredibly advanced alien beings. What will they think of humans? And what will they do about it? Fun to think about now perhaps, but this issue will be increasingly important in the future.

2001: A Space Odyssey sequel miniseries plannedNov 04 2014

Syfy is doing a 2001: A Space Odyssey sequel miniseries based on Arthur C. Clarke's final book in his four-book Space Odyssey series, 3001: The Final Odyssey. Here's the book's synopsis:

One thousand years after the Jupiter mission to explore the mysterious Monolith had been destroyed, after Dave Bowman was transformed into the Star Child, Frank Poole drifted in space, frozen and forgotten, leaving the supercomputer HAL inoperable. But now Poole has returned to life, awakening in a world far different from the one he left behind -- and just as the Monolith may be stirring once again

Ridley Scott is executive producing and Stuart Beattie (Pirates of the Caribbean, Collateral) will do the heavy adaptational lifting.

Showing character choice in SnowpiercerOct 31 2014

A new short episode of Every Frame a Painting, in which Tony Zhou talks about how to show character choice in movies without using dialogue. His main example is Snowpiercer. Spoilers ahoy.

Ex MachinaOct 30 2014

The directorial debut of Alex Garland, screenwriter of Sunshine and 28 Days Later, looks interesting.

Ex Machina is an intense psychological thriller, played out in a love triangle between two men and a beautiful robot girl. It explores big ideas about the nature of consciousness, emotion, sexuality, truth and lies.

(via http://devour.com/)

The 50 best movie adaptations of booksOct 20 2014

From Silence of the Lambs (#1) to To Kill A Mocking Bird (#9) to Blade Runner (#28), these are the 50 best book-to-movie adaptations ever, compiled by Total Film.

Somehow absent is Spike Jonze's Adaptation and I guess 2001 was not technically based on a book, but whatevs. The commenters additionally lament the lack of Requiem for a Dream, Gone with the Wind, The French Connection, Rosemary's Baby, Last of the Mohicans, and The Wizard of Oz.

Who Wins the Scene?Oct 16 2014

Tony Zhou's excellent series on filmmaking, Every Frame a Painting, has become a much-watch for me. Here's the latest one, a short look at a single scene from Silence of the Lambs in which Zhou asks: Who Wins the Scene?

Top 10 slo-mo movie momentsOct 14 2014

From CineFix, their top ten slow motion sequences of all time.

Includes scenes from The Matrix, Hard Boiled, Reservoir Dogs, and The Shining. But no Wes Anderson!?! *burns down internet* (via @DavidGrann)

Pixel MiyazakiOct 09 2014

A short and sweet pixel art tribute to legendary animator and director Hayao Miyazaki.

See also 8-bit Ghibli.

Welcome to Costco, I love youOct 07 2014

From David Fear at Rolling Stone, an appreciation of the "Genius of Idiocracy", the smartest stupid movie ever made.

This is Judge's vision of the future -- a landscape of staggering vulgarity and franchising run amuck, where Carl's Jr. can take your kids if you can't pay for their "big-ass fries," consumers eat tubs of butter while watching the Masturbation Channel and the President is a porn star/five-time TV wrestling champion. As he mentions in the interview below (jump to the 27-and-a-half mark), Judge was in line at Disneyland with his family when two women, each with kids in strollers, started screaming obscenities at each other. "I [started] thinking, what if the movie 2001, instead of the monolith and everything being pristine and advanced...what if it was The Jerry Springer Show and giant WalMarts?" With basic human intelligence now bred out of existence, the profoundly stupid have inherited the earth and they've turned it into both a giant, poorly run superstore and an Orwellian dystopia sponsored by Olive Garden.

Counterpoint by Matt Novak at Paleofuture: Idiocracy Is a Cruel Movie And You Should Be Ashamed For Liking It.

What's so wrong with this thinking? Unlike other films that satirize the media and the soul-crushing consequences of sensationalized entertainment (my personal favorite being 1951's Ace in the Hole), Idiocracy lays the blame at the feet of an undeserved target (the poor) while implicitly advocating a terrible solution (eugenics). The movie's underlying premise is a fundamentally dangerous and backwards way to understand the world.

If you haven't seen it, decide for yourself and watch the film on Amazon. (via @khoi)

Gene Siskel reviews The Empire Strikes BackOct 06 2014

In a local Chicago TV segment from 1980, here's film critic Gene Siskel reviewing The Empire Strikes Back.

Interesting that he spends most of his time commenting on the special effects. At the time of this review, Siskel had been doing a show with Roger Ebert called Sneak Previews, but they seemed to have missed reviewing the original Star Wars or Empire on the show. Ebert reviewed Empire in 1997, giving it four stars and calling it "the best of the three Star Wars films".

"The Empire Strikes Back" is the best of three Star Wars films, and the most thought-provoking. After the space opera cheerfulness of the original film, this one plunges into darkness and even despair, and surrenders more completely to the underlying mystery of the story. It is because of the emotions stirred in "Empire" that the entire series takes on a mythic quality that resonates back to the first and ahead to the third. This is the heart.

The film was made in 1980 with full knowledge that "Star Wars" had become the most successful movie of all time. If corners were cut in the first film's budget, no cost was spared in this one: It is a visual extravaganza from beginning to end, one of the most visionary and inventive of all films.

(via devour)

Designing IdiocracyOct 03 2014

Brawndo

Over at Trivia Happy, Phil Edwards interviewed Ellen Lampl, who designed the logos for Mike Judge's underrated Idiocracy.

Some logos came from the script, while some came from the designers' brainstorming sessions. Brawndo and Carl's Jr. were written, while Lampl made logos for companies like Nastea and Fedexx once the overall look was approved. For Lampl, it was a great release, because "coming from the past constraints of advertising, it was cathartic to have the liberty to be bawdy and irreverent. Making everything ridiculously over-emphasized with bright colors, outlines upon outlines, and exaggerated drop shadows was my personal jab at the world of branding and in-your-face typography."

What David Fincher doesn't doOct 03 2014

Tony Zhou of Every Frame a Painting looks at the constraints David Fincher chooses to operate under while shooting a film. For instance, he very rarely uses hand-held cameras.

The last half of the video featuring a breakdown of how some of Fincher's scenes were shot is fascinating.

Gone Girl soundtrackSep 30 2014

The soundtrack for David Fincher's adaptation of Gone Girl is out and as with his last two films (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), the music is by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Whenever the words "Reznor", "Fincher", "Atticus", and "soundtrack" get into a sentence together, you know it's good news for your earholes. (via @arainert)

ps. Speaking of Fincher, he spoke to Disney about directing a Star Wars movie and had an interesting take on the original trilogy:

I always thought of Star Wars as the story of two slaves [C-3PO and R2-D2] who go from owner to owner, witnessing their masters' folly, the ultimate folly of man.

Inherent ViceSep 30 2014

I somehow didn't know or forgot that PT Anderson was doing a movie based on Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice. It turns out he totally is and here's the first trailer:

That looks entirely goofy and good.

Raiders of the Lost Ark in black and whiteSep 23 2014

In 2011, Steven Soderbergh revealed he'd repeatedly watched Raiders of the Lost Ark in black & white. Now he's released a full-length version of the film in b&w, with no dialogue and an alternate soundtrack (Reznor and Ross's score to The Social Network) so that you can focus on how the film is constructed visually.

So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot -- whether short or long -- held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I've removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I'm not saying I'm like, ALLOWED to do this, I'm just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are -- that's high level visual math shit).

The Shawshank Redemption, 20 years onSep 23 2014

The Shawshank Redemption came out 20 years ago and promptly bombed. Now it's one of the most popular movies of all time. Here's how it came to be made.

Filming on location is often something to be endured, and Shawshank's schedule was particularly brutal: workdays were 15 to 18 hours, six days a week, over three humid months inside the former Ohio State Reformatory, in Mansfield, and on nearby constructed sets, which included the huge cellblock. "We were lucky to have Sundays off," says Darabont.

A bakery in Mansfield now sells Bundt-cake replicas of the Gothic prison, which these days is a tourist attraction that draws Shawshank pilgrims. But in 1993 the defunct penitentiary-closed three years earlier for inhumane living conditions-"was a very bleak place," according to Darabont. Robbins adds, "You could feel the pain. It was the pain of thousands of people." The production employed former inmates who shared personal stories similar to those in Shawshank's script, "in terms of the violence of the guards and throwing people off the top of cellblocks," says Deakins.

Robbins remembers "going to that place inside for three months. It was never depressing, because Andy had this hope inside. But it was, at times, dark because of the situations that the character goes through." Deakins confirms that working on the film was "a very intense situation. Sometimes the performances really affected me while I was shooting it." The scene that gave Deakins "a tingle down the spine" is also Robbins's favorite: the prisoners drinking beer on the sunny license-plate-factory roof. Coming more than a half an hour into the movie-and two years into Andy's sentence-it's the first bright spot in a film heretofore gray in palette and tone. Andy risks being thrown off the roof by Captain Hadley in order to procure a few "suds" for his fellow prisoners-a moment when the character shifts from victim to burgeoning legend. That Andy himself doesn't drink is beside the point.

The scene was shot over a "hard, hard day," says Freeman. "We were actually tarring that roof. And tar doesn't stay hot and viscous long. It tends to dry and harden, so you're really working. For the different setups you had to keep doing it over and over and over and over and over."

I was one of the few who saw Shawshank in the theater (I watched at least two or three movies a week back in those days) and loved it immediately. (via @aaroncoleman0)

Star Wars Episode II: The Friend ZoneSep 18 2014

Amidala friendzones Anakin, Obi-Wan hunts for drugs, and Jango Fett pumps the bass in this hilarious Auralnauts reimagining of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

You may have also seen their recent video of the Throne Room scene at the end of Star Wars without John Williams' score (reminiscent of these musicless musicvideos) or Bane's outtakes from The Dark Knight Rises. Still champion though: bad lip reading of NFL players. (via @aaroncoleman0)

As You WishSep 18 2014

Princess Bride Westley

Actor Cary Elwes (Westley, The Dread Pirate Roberts) has written a book about the making of the Princess Bride, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

The Princess Bride isn't currently streaming on Netflix, but you can rent it from Amazon.

Jiro Dreams, the sequelSep 16 2014

David Gelb, the director of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, is going to be doing a six-part documentary series for Netflix about "culinary artists".

Chefs featured in the docu-series are: Ben Shewry (of Attica Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia), Magnus Nilsson (Fäviken in Järpen Sweden), Francis Mallmann (El Restaurante Patagonia Sur in Buenos Aires, Argentina), Niki Nakayama (N/Naka Restaurant in Los Angeles), Dan Barber (Blue Hill in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.) and Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy).

Sounds a lot like a Jiro Dreams series. Looking forward to it. (via @MattH)

Why archaeologists hate Indiana JonesSep 12 2014

Erik Vance on why real working archaeologists don't care for Indiana Jones.

"Oh God," he groans, "Don't even go there. Indiana Jones is not an archeologist."

It's not surprising that academics -- hell bent on taking the fun out of everything -- would hate our beloved and iconic movie version of them. But Canuto is no killjoy. His ironic tone and acerbic wit seem honed by long boring days in the sun. So I bite. I quickly learn that there's a good reason why most every archeologist on Earth hates Indy. And that they might have a point. Because Jones isn't an archeologist at all.

"That first scene, where he's in the temple and he's replacing that statue with a bag of sand -- that's what looters do," Canuto says, grinning. "[The temple builders] are using these amazing mechanisms of engineering and all he wants to do is steal the stupid gold statue."

Makes you wonder if Jones was one of the Raiders referred to in the title of the first movie. (via @riondotnu)

100 iconic film scenesSep 08 2014

From Cinefix, the 100 most iconic shots in film.

Skews heavily toward pop culture favorites, but still worth a look. Here's a video with annotations of each scene. (via digg)

Wes Anderson's vehiclesSep 04 2014

A compilation of some of the vehicles used in Wes Anderson's movies, shot from the first-person POV.

(via devour)

Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls WilderSep 03 2014

Pioneer Girl

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her autobiography, Pioneer Girl, in the early 1930s. The book was deemed unsuitable for publication, but Wilder reworked her story into the successful Little House on the Prairie series for children.

Now the South Dakota Historical Society is publishing an annotated version of Pioneer Girl, which includes stories from Wilder's childhood that didn't make it into the kids' books. And for good reason.

It contains stories omitted from her novels, tales that Wilder herself felt "would not be appropriate" for children, such as her family's sojourn in the town of Burr Oak, where she once saw a man became so drunk that, when he lit a cigar, the whisky fumes on his breath ignited and killed him instantly. In another recollection, a shopkeeper drags his wife around by her hair, pours kerosene on the floor of his house, and sets their bedroom on fire.

Wilder's memoir also paints a different picture of her father, Charles Ingalls, known in the novels as Pa. Although the real man's character is essentially the same as the version in the novels - affectionate, musical and restless to move on through America's frontier - he is, said the book's publisher, the South Dakota Historical Society Press, clearly "romanticised and idealised". In Wilder's autobiography, he is described sneaking his family out of town in the middle of the night after failing to negotiate the rent with the landlord, justifying the flit by calling the man a "rich old skinflint".

Earlier this year, there was an open casting call for the role of Laura in a new movie version of Little House on the Prairie. Maybe the drunken self-immolation will make it into this one!

Skips Stones for FudgeAug 26 2014

That's the somewhat unusual name of a feature-length documentary about world-class stone skippers. Here's the trailer:

I love skipping stones. When I see flat water and flat rocks, I can't not do it. They have to change that name though. They were likely going for "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" but really missed the mark. Oh, and they're raising funds on Kickstarter to finish the film.

The zen art of stone skipping meets the competitive nature of mankind in this feature-length documentary. Set in the world of professional stone skipping, this film will examine the competitive nature of mankind. World Records will be tested, rivalries will fester, and a sport will rise from the ashes of obscurity.

An ode to the SteadicamAug 25 2014

A short appreciation of the Steadicam and its inventor, Garrett Brown. (Brown also invented the football SkyCam.) Features footage from Rocky, Return of the Jedi, and The Shining.

From Wikipedia:

The Steadicam was first used in the Best Picture-nominated Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory (1976), debuting with a shot that compounded the Steadicam's innovation: cinematographer Haskell Wexler had Brown start the shot on a fully elevated platform crane which jibbed down, and when it reached the ground, Brown stepped off and walked the camera through the set. This technically audacious and previously impossible shot created considerable interest in how it had been accomplished, and impressed the Academy enough for Wexler to win the Oscar for Best Cinematography that year. It was then used in extensive running and chase scenes on the streets of New York City in Marathon Man (1976), which was actually released two months before Bound for Glory. It landed a notable third credit in Avildsen's Best Picture-winning Rocky (1976), where it was an integral part of the film's Philadelphia street jogging/training sequences and the run up the Art Museum's flight of stairs, as well as the fight scenes (where it can even be plainly seen in operation at the ringside during some wide shots of the final fight). Garrett Brown was the Steadicam operator on all of these.

The Shining (1980) pushed Brown's innovations even further, when director Stanley Kubrick requested that the camera shoot from barely above the floor. This prompted the innovation of a "low mode" bracket to mount the top of a camera to the bottom of an inverted post, which substantially increased the creative angles of the system, which previously could not go much lower than the operator's waist height. This low-mode concept remains the most important extension to the system since its inception.

(via @robinsloan)

Update: Here's Brown talking about the Steadicam and his career. And here's Stanley Kubrick's introduction to the Steadicam, via a letter from a colleague. (via @poritsky & @LettersOfNote)

AutomataAug 22 2014

Automata is a film directed by Gabe Ibáñez in which robots become sentient and...do something. Not sure what...I hope it's not revolt and try to take over the world because zzzz... But this movie looks good so here's hoping.

Jacq Vaucan, an insurance agent of ROC robotics corporation, routinely investigates the case of manipulating a robot. What he discovers will have profound consequences for the future of humanity.

Automata will be available in theaters and VOD on Oct 10. (via devour)

Behind the scenes with the Coen brothersAug 21 2014

When Alex Belth was 25 years old, he worked with Joel and Ethan Coen on The Big Lebowski, first as a personal assistant and then as an assistant editor. He recently published a short Kindle book about the experience.

The Dudes Abide is the first behind-the-scenes account of the making of a Coen Brothers movie, and offers an intimate, first-hand narrative of the making of The Big Lebowski -- including never-before-revealed details about the making of the film, and insight into the inner workings of the Coen Brothers' genius.

An excerpt of the book was published on Deadspin.

Joel told Goodman about re-recording dialogue for the profanity-free television version of Fargo. They rewrote the line, "I'm fucking hungry now" to "I'm full of hungry now."

"Why didn't we write it like that originally?" said Joel. "It's funnier."

Goodman said, "Who else is coming on this show?" (In Los Angeles, movie people call a movie a "show.")

There was Steve Buscemi as Donny, Julianne Moore as Maude, Jon Polito as Da Fino.

Joel said, "Our friend Luis, who was an assistant film editor on Hudsucker, will be playing the enraged Mexican."

"Yeah, you'll like Luis," Ethan said in a creaky voice. "He makes a big statement."

"Turturro is coming in to play the pederast," Joel said. "He said he'd do his best F. Murray Abraham."

(thx, brad)

Texting in moviesAug 20 2014

From Tony Zhou, A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film.

Michele Tepper wrote about Sherlock's display of texts in 2011.

The rise of instant messaging, and even more, the SMS, has added another layer of difficulty; I'm convinced that the reason so many TV characters have iPhones is not just that Hollywood thinks they're cool, but also because the big crisp screen is so darn easy to read. Still, the cut to that little black metal rectangle is a narrative momentum killer. What's a director trying to make a ripping good adventure yarn to do?

The solution is deceptively simple: instead of cutting to the character's screen, Sherlock takes over the viewer's screen.

And just today, a trailer for Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children, which movie seems to consist entirely of texting and social media interaction:

(via @tcarmody)

Star Wars: The Despecialized EditionAug 19 2014

A remastered copy of the original 1977 Han-shoots-first version of Star Wars is out there and you can watch it but it's probably illegal. But Disney is never going to show it to you, so maybe it's ok to find it on Bittorrent?

The Despecialized Edition is the years-long work of a diverse group of people who have taken elements from many different sources and created the ultimate version of the first Star Wars film. It has also been upgraded to display properly on high definition screens, with high-quality sounds and a near perfect image.

The latest Blu-Ray release of the film serves as the skeleton for this edition, but elements of the 2006 bonus DVD that included the unaltered version of the film was also used to remove special effects and edits that were added by Lucas.

Here's a short feature on the video sources used:

And here's how to get the full film.

Update: Here's an extensive side-by-side look at how dozens of shots were modified to make The Despecialized Edition.

Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 1Aug 15 2014

The mixtape that Star-Lord carries around in Guardians of the Galaxy is of course available as an actual album (Amazon mp3, iTunes). The album isn't on Rdio, but William Goodman cobbled together a playlist of all the songs:

As Slate notes, the movie merch album isn't totally true to the movie as it includes two songs from Awesome Mix Vol. 2, but I will never complain of Marvin Gaye's or the Jackson 5's inclusion in anything.

Update: And here's a playlist on Spotify, courtesy of Casey Johnston.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesAug 12 2014

Here's the trailer for the third and final movie in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy:

The Hobbit was initially supposed to be just two films but Jackson decided to split the second film into two. From Wikipedia:

According to Jackson, the third film would contain the Battle of the Five Armies and make extensive use of the appendices that Tolkien wrote to expand the story of Middle-Earth (published in the back of The Return of the King).

The second movie was better than the first so I'm looking forward to this one. But then again, I'm totally in the tank for Jackson's take on Middle Earth (I did the Weta Digital tour when I was in New Zealand) so I would see it even if the first two movies sucked.

The Hateful EightAug 12 2014

Tarantino Hateful Eight

So, a few months ago Quentin Tarantino scrapped plans to make what was supposed to be his next film, The Hateful Eight, after the script leaked. Which struck me as weird and petty, but Hollywood in general seems weird and petty to me. Turns out that Tarantino's gonna do the movie after all.

During the Comic-Con panel, one of the audience members point blank asked Tarantino if he'll be making the script as his next feature, following recent word that it could be heating back up again. Tarantino hemmed and hawed for a bit -- before finally committing: "Yeah -- We're going to be doing The Hateful Eight." So there you have it: The Hateful Eight will be the next Quentin Tarantino feature.

The photo at the top is the first official poster for the film.

Robin Williams, RIPAug 11 2014

Actor Robin Williams was found dead in his home today of an apparent suicide. He was 63. I have been thinking a lot about this scene from Dead Poets Society lately:

The Theory of EverythingAug 07 2014

From James Marsh, the director of the excellent Man on Wire, a biopic of physicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane. Here's the first trailer:

The film is based on a book by Jane Hawking, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.

In this compelling memoir, his first wife, Jane Hawking, relates the inside story of their extraordinary marriage. As Stephen's academic renown soared, his body was collapsing under the assaults of motor neurone disease. Jane's candid account of trying to balance his 24-hour care with the needs of their growing family reveals the inner-strength of the author, while the self-evident character and achievements of her husband make for an incredible tale presented with unflinching honesty.

As promising as this looks, the Kanye in me needs to remind you that Errol Morris' A Brief History of Time is the best film about Stephen Hawking of all time. OF ALL TIME.

The greatest documentaries of all timeAug 05 2014

Sight and Sound polled 340 critics and filmmakers in search of the world's best documentary films. Here are their top 50. From the list, the top five:

A Man with a Movie Camera
Shoah
Sans soleil
Night and Fog
The Thin Blue Line

Unless you went to film school or are a big film nerd, you probably haven't seen (or even heard of) the top choice, A Man with a Movie Camera. Roger Ebert reviewed the film several years ago as part of his Great Movies Collection.

Born in 1896 and coming of age during the Russian Revolution, Vertov considered himself a radical artist in a decade where modernism and surrealism were gaining stature in all the arts. He began by editing official newsreels, which he assembled into montages that must have appeared rather surprising to some audiences, and then started making his own films. He would invent an entirely new style. Perhaps he did. "It stands as a stinging indictment of almost every film made between its release in 1929 and the appearance of Godard's 'Breathless' 30 years later," the critic Neil Young wrote, "and Vertov's dazzling picture seems, today, arguably the fresher of the two." Godard is said to have introduced the "jump cut," but Vertov's film is entirely jump cuts.

If you're curious, the film is available on YouTube in its entirety:

(via open culture)

Interstellar trailer #3Aug 05 2014

Christopher Nolan + Matthew McConaughey + space + doomed Earth. Oh man, this is looking like it might actually be great. Or completely suck.

Please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't s (via @aaroncoleman0)

The science of Star WarsAug 04 2014

Science Of Star Wars

Physicist Andy Howell recently gave a talk about the science of Star Wars and wrote up a summary of it for Ain't It Cool News. Topics covered include binary star systems, droids, the Death Star, and lightsabers:

Of course, we still don't know how to make a lightsaber. One big problem is confining plasma (if that is even what it is), into some tube. But a bigger problem is the amount of energy required. We can actually calculate this from clues in the movies!

In Episode I, Qui-Gon jabs his lightsaber into a door, and melts part of it. That's just basic physics! To melt something, you have to raise its temperature to the melting point, and you can calculate how much energy that takes using the specific heat capacity of a material.

(thx, greg)

Studio Ghibli is closing? Not closing? Sleeping?Aug 04 2014

Alarming reports out of Japan are saying that super-animation studio Studio Ghibli is closing!

Just moments ago, Toshio Suzuki, Studio Ghibli producer, announced on the TV show of the MBS Jounetsu Tairiku chain effectively as announced as sources close to the studio, Studio Ghibli will close and production studio anime, leaving himself only as a company that will manage its trademarks. As stated in the program's producer, "the production department of anime will be dismantled," which coincides with the data that we gave in our previous post on this decision had been taken from spring after the poor reception at the box office of Kaguya-hime no Monogatari.

Luckily those reports appear to be overblown and poorly translated. As Kotaku explains, Suzuki's comments were much more speculative in nature:

Suzuki's wording makes it sound like the studio is considering reorganization and regrouping. It could mean that Studio Ghibli decides it won't make anime films anymore. Though it could mean they do keep making anime films. It could mean a lot of things!

Realize that, at the time of writing, no major Japanese newspaper is running this story. Nor did any morning TV shows. Had Studio Ghibli -- a national treasure -- definitively ceased production of films, it would be headline news around the country, as it would be important in both the entertainment and business worlds.

(via @tcarmody)

Old Town Music HallJul 25 2014

From This Must Be the Place, a lovely short profile of Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, California. Old Town shows silent films with live musical accompaniment. Includes a brief tour of the inner workings of the theater's wind-powered pipe organ from 1925.

The Imitation GameJul 21 2014

The Imitation Game is a historical drama about Alan Turing, focusing on his efforts in breaking the Enigma code during WWII. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing. Here's a trailer:

12 Monkeys TV series trailerJul 18 2014

The first season of a new series based on 12 Monkeys (and La Jetée) is set to debut on Syfy in January; here's the trailer:

(via the verge)

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