kottke.org posts about movies

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.

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)

SnowpiercerJul 18 2014

This is a lie, but I got dozens of emails today asking, "Jason, what movie should I watch tonight?" Whoa, slow down everyone, I've got just the thing: Snowpiercer. It's a Korean film from 2013 that's just now trickling into the consciousness of the rest of the world (c.f. this Grantland piece). The film takes place entirely on a train carrying the last remaining humans speeding forever around a frozen Earth (caused by an overenthusiastic response to climate change) and director Bong Joon-ho takes full advantage of this confined and linear setting. Plus, Tilda Swinton as a Terry Gilliam-ified Maggie Thatcher is worth the price of admission alone.

Snowpiercer is out in ~350 theaters in the US, so if you're not in a major metropolitan area, it might be a little hard to catch. But the movie is also available digitally at Amazon and iTunes.

A People's History of TattooineJul 17 2014

In the same vein as the Zinn/Chomsky Lord of the Rings commentary is A People's History of Tattooine, a Twitter conversation that Jacob Harris kicks off thusly:

What if Mos Eisley wasn't really that wretched and it was just Obi Wan being racist again?

Some other highlights:

"more civilized time?" Check your privilege, Obi Wan

the Tusken People. Raiders presumes some malevolent intent

all I'm saying is that I don't blame the Tusken People for steering clear of the racist, violent and armed old man

like anybody forgets what Luke and his friends did to native womp rat populations at Beggars Canyon Park

The Grand Budapest Hotel reviewedJul 17 2014

There are 46 reviews (and counting) of The Grand Budapest Hotel on TripAdvisor, which is ranked "#1 of 1 hotels in The Republic of Zubrowka".

As an elderly women I was thoroughly delighted by the attention of the staff! Particularly the concierge, what a thoughtful generous man! Wish I could take him home to service me there! I also loved the food and the chocolate treats from mendls. Tip top!

See also Schrute Farms on TripAdvisor and TripAdvisor reviews for the Overlook Hotel. Oh and The Grand Budapest Hotel movie is now available for digital rental. (via @khoi)

LoTR DVD commentary from Zinn and ChomskyJul 14 2014

This is an old piece from McSweeney's, but it's absolute gold and I can't believe I've been missing it all these years. In it, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn record a DVD commentary for the first Lord of the Rings movie. So, so good.

Zinn: You've spoken to me before about Mordor's lack of access to the mineral wealth that the Dwarves control.

Chomsky: If we're going to get into the socio-economic reasons why certain structures develop in certain cultures... it's mainly geographical. We have Orcs in Mordor -- trapped, with no mineral resources -- hemmed in by the Ash Mountains, where the "free peoples" of Middle Earth can put a city, like Osgiliath, and effectively keep the border closed.

Zinn: Don't forget the Black Gate. The Black Gate, which, as Tolkien points out, was built by Gondor. And now we jump to the Orcs chopping down the trees in Isengard.

Chomsky: A terrible thing the Orcs do here, isn't it? They destroy nature. But again, what have we seen, time and time again?

Zinn: The Orcs have no resources. They're desperate.

Chomsky: Desperate people driven to do desperate things.

Zinn: Desperate to compete with the economic powerhouses of Rohan and Gondor.

Chomsky: Who really knows their motive? Maybe this is a means to an end. And while that might not be the best philosophy in the world, it makes the race of Man in no way superior. They're going to great lengths to hold onto their power. Two cultures locked in conflict over power, with one culture clearly suffering a great deal. I think sharing power and resources would have been the wisest approach, but Rohan and Gondor have shown no interest in doing so. Sometimes, revolution must be --

Zinn: Mistakes are often --

Chomsky: Blood must be shed. I forget what Thomas Jefferson --

Here's part two. And the same writers, Jeff Alexander and Tom Bissell, also did one for The Return of the King.

Ten most memorable film editsJul 11 2014

From CineFix, a collection of ten of the most iconic and memorable editing moments in cinematic history.

(via @brillhart)

The unfinished films of Stanley KubrickJul 11 2014

Narrated by Malcolm McDowell and featuring interviews from many collaborators and colleagues, Lost Kubrick is a short documentary on the films that Stanley Kubrick never finished.

Through interviews and abundant archival materials, this documentary examines these "lost" films in depth to discover what drew Kubrick to these projects, the work he did to prepare them for production, and why they ultimately were abandoned. Some of the unfinished project discussed here are "Napoleon", "The Aryan Papers" and also "A.I" (which we know finally made by Steven Spielberg).

First trailer for Star Wars from 1976Jul 07 2014

In 1976, 20th Century Fox released a teaser trailer for a little film called Star Wars...aka "the story of a boy, a girl, and a universe".

No James Earl Jones voiceover for Vader, no John Williams score (which wasn't finished until just two months before the film premiered), but those visuals must have impressed.

Here's the first teaser trailer for Empire Strikes Back, which features no film footage at all, just concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie:

And for the sake of completeness, the teaser trailer for Return of the Jedi, which appeared in theaters before Lucas changed the name from Revenge of the Jedi:

The 50 greatest summer blockbustersJul 07 2014

The staff and contributors of Dissolve recently listed the 50 greatest summer blockbusters ever. Here's #50-31, #30-11, and the top 10.

Blockbusters have become such an integral part of the way we talk about films that it's hard to believe they haven't always been with us. But while there have always been big movies-lavish productions designed to draw crowds and command repeat business-the blockbuster as we know it has a definite start date: June 20, 1975. That's when Jaws first hit screens in the middle of what was once, in the words of The Financial Times, a "low season" when the "only steady summer dollars came, in the U.S., from drive-in theaters." It's summer, after all; why go to the movies when you could be outside? Jaws changed that. Star Wars cemented that change. And now, the summer-movie season is dominated by the biggest films Hollywood has to offer.

Jaws is the no-surprise #1 but Who Framed Roger Rabbit at #8? Hmm, dunno about that. And leaving Star Wars just off the top 10 is a bold move. My personal top ten would also have included Ghostbusters -- I remember vividly waiting in line in the sweltering heat outside the El Lago theater to see Ghostbusters and just being completely and utterly blown away by it -- and Terminator 2. Oh and Batman. I think I saw that movie half-a-dozen times in the theater and it was just everywhere that summer...the logo, that song by Prince, everything. (via @khoi)

Life ItselfJul 07 2014

Life Itself, the documentary about Roger Ebert, is now out in theaters. But you can also watch it via various Video On Demand services, including Amazon and iTunes. Here's the trailer to whet yer whistle:

Minimalist movie posters made out of card stockJul 03 2014

Spanish design firm Atipo made these nifty minimalist movie posters out of card stock. I really like the one for Rear Window:

Rear Window

Scorsese's silenceJun 30 2014

Martin Scorsese uses silence very effectively in his films. Tony Zhou explains:

(via dot info)

Kill Bill as an 8-bit video gameJun 25 2014

If you took all the fight scenes from Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill movies and turned them into a Double Dragon-esque video game, this is what it would look like:

(via devour)

Spielberg to direct The BFG movieJun 24 2014

I missed this news a couple of months ago: Steven Spielberg is going to direct a movie version of Roald Dahl's The BFG.

Renowned film director Steven Spielberg will direct the new adaptation with Melissa Mathison, who last worked with Spielberg on ET, writing the script. Frank Marshall will produce the film and Michael Siegel and John Madden are on board as executive producers.

I can't find any direct evidence, but the way the news is being reported, this seems like it'll be a live-action film and not a Tintin 3-D motion capture affair.

Inside Out, Pixar's next filmJun 23 2014

2014 is the first year without a Pixar film since 2005's gap between The Incredibles and Cars. The company has two films planned for 2015 and one of them will hopefully do something about one of my long-standing pet peeves about their movies: the lack of strong women characters. Inside Out takes place inside the brain of a teenaged girl, with her emotions as the main characters.

The film's real protagonist is Joy (voiced by an effervescent Amy Poehler), one of five emotions who steer Riley through life via a control center in her mind that's akin to the bridge from the Starship Enterprise. Joy and her cohorts -- including Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) -- all work together to keep Riley emotionally balanced, and for the first 11 years of her life, the primary influencer is Joy, as evidenced by Riley's sunny demeanor.

But as adolescence sets in, Joy finds her lead role usurped. Suddenly, Sadness wants to pipe in at inappropriate times -- coaxing Riley to cry during her first day at a new school, for instance -- and as the two emotions jostle for control, both of them fall into the deepest reaches of Riley's mind and have to work their way back. Meanwhile, left to their own devices, Fear, Disgust, and Anger collude to transform Riley into a moody preteen.

Holy cow, that sounds great.

On this weekend in 1974Jun 22 2014

Chinatown Listing 1984

Yesterday, I did a round-up of movies, TV, and music available on this weekend in 1984. As a comparison, I thought looking at the same weekend from 1974 would be interesting. Tracking this information down was a little more difficult than with 1984, but I found most of what I needed in the June 23, 1974 edition of the NY Times.

Back in the 1970s (and probably particularly in NYC), movies stayed in theaters a lot longer than they do now. There was no home video market then...you either saw the movie in the theater or you missed it. This is a list of some of the movies available for viewing in theaters that weekend in NYC:

The Sting
The Exorcist
Parallax View
The Sugarland Express
The Conversation
Chinatown
Papillon
The Great Gatsby

The Sting, Papillon, and The Exorcist had been out since late 1973, The Great Gatsby since March, and The Sugarland Express (Spielberg's directoral debut) and The Conversation since April. Only Parallax View and Chinatown had just opened. Interestingly, the year's top-grossing film, Blazing Saddles, which opened in February, didn't appear anywhere on the movie listing pages of the Times that week.

The top 10 on the Billboard chart for that week were:

Billy, Don't Be A Hero - Bo Donaldson And The Heywoods
You Make Me Feel Brand New - The Stylistics
Sundown - Gordon Lightfoot
The Streak - Ray Stevens
Be Thankful For What You Got - William DeVaughn
Band On The Run - Paul McCartney & Wings
If You Love Me (let Me Know) - Olivia Newton-John
Dancing Machine - Jackson 5
Hollywood Swinging - Kool & The Gang
The Entertainer - Marvin Hamlisch/The Sting

And on TV that weekend, a number of classic shows, all reruns except for 60 Minutes:

Brady Bunch
Sanford and Son
Good Times
Upstairs, Downstairs
The Odd Couple
All in the Family
M*A*S*H
Mary Tyler Moore
60 Minutes

BTW, the entire copy of the Sunday Times was fascinating to page through. The ads for cigarettes, hand-held calculators, and color televisions, real estate listings, job openings, book listings, the NY Times Magazine, car ads, etc.

On this weekend in 1984Jun 21 2014

On this weekend 30 years ago, in the summer of 1984, you could stroll into a movie theater and choose between the following films:

Ghostbusters
Gremlins
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
The Karate Kid
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Top Secret!
The Natural
Police Academy

Plus, Sixteen Candles and Footloose had just closed the weekend before. 1984 was generally a great year for movies. Musically, the following songs were in heavy rotation on the radio and on MTV that weekend:

The Reflex - Duran Duran
Time After Time - Cyndi Lauper
Let's Hear It for the Boy - Deniece Williams
Dancing in the Dark - Bruce Springsteen
Self Control - Laura Branigan
The Heart of Rock & Roll - Huey Lewis
Jump - The Pointer Sisters
When Doves Cry - Prince
Eyes Without a Face - Billy Idol
Borderline - Madonna

On TV that weekend were mostly reruns and movies...networks only showed reruns in the summer back then. The shows airing included:

The Dukes of Hazzard
Fantasy Island
Webster
Dallas
Diff'rent Strokes
60 Minutes
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Late Night with David Letterman

(via, no foolin', the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man)

Rian Johnson to direct Star Wars VIII and IXJun 20 2014

Rian Johnson, director of Brick and Looper (both of which I really enjoyed) and one of the best episodes of Breaking Bad, is rumored to be the director of the 8th and 9th episodes of Star Wars.

Johnson will take over the core film franchise, and he'll get started quickly and this will be his preoccupation for quite awhile. Technically, he'll write that second treatment but the intention on both sides is that he direct the two installments.

First Abrams and now this...Disney seems to be doing a much better job shepherding the Star Wars franchise than Lucas did. (via df)

Central Park Five suit settledJun 20 2014

NYC and the Central Park Five have agreed to a $40 million settlement that will bring a years-long civil rights lawsuit to an end.

The five men whose convictions in the brutal 1989 beating and rape of a female jogger in Central Park were later overturned have agreed to a settlement of about $40 million from New York City to resolve a bitterly fought civil rights lawsuit over their arrests and imprisonment in the sensational crime.

The agreement, reached between the city's Law Department and the five plaintiffs, would bring to an end an extraordinary legal battle over a crime that came to symbolize a sense of lawlessness in New York, amid reports of "wilding" youths and a marauding "wolf pack" that set its sights on a 28-year-old investment banker who ran in the park many evenings after work.

Ken Burns made a documentary film about this case in 2012. Highly recommended viewing...and you can watch the whole thing on the PBS web site.

Jurassic Park's groundbreaking digital dinosaursJun 10 2014

Great short film about how ILM's groundbreaking visual effects came to be used in Jurassic Park.

When Spielberg originally conceived the movie, he was going to use stop-motion dinosaurs. ILM was tasked with providing motion blur to make them look more realistic. But in their spare time, a few engineers made a fully digital T. Rex skeleton and when the producers saw it, they flipped out and scrapped the stop-motion entirely. Fun story.

Entire Back to the Future town to be recreated for anniversary screeningJun 05 2014

This summer in London, Secret Cinema will build a replica of the fictional Hill Valley town seen in Back to the Future:

Fabien Riggall, founder of Secret Cinema which has presented more than 40 immersive cinema screening events, said: "We shall play heavily on the innocent dream-like world of 1955 and the nostalgic pre-mobile phone world of 1985. We want the audiences to forget their current world and take an adventure."

The recreation will include a DeLorean "time machine" to shuttle audience members between 1985 and 1955 sections of the town, and an "Enchantment Under the Sea" afterparty. Tickets cost £53.50, or about $90 US.

It's fascinating to watch the Back to the Future movies now not for their nostalgic depiction of the 1950s or jokey guesses at life in 2015, all hoverboards and flying cars, but as a vital document of the 1980s. After all, next year, we'll be as far removed from 1985 as the filmmakers were from 1955. The first film especially fixes that time's preoccupations and possibilities in amber.

(Via Paleofuture/Gizmodo.)

Where did Star Wars come from?May 29 2014

Yesterday I posted a video looking at the influence of Akira Kurosawa on Star Wars. Well, Michael Heilemann has posted an amazing feature-length exploration of Star Wars and the films that influenced it.

It's not Heilemann talking about anything...it's a sort of meta-Star Wars comprised of dozens of elements from other films that influenced Lucas in making it. For instance, here's the opening crawl from Forbidden Planet (1956):

Forbidden Planet

Heilemann also includes a crawl from a 1936 Flash Gordan serial. For more, check out Kitbashed, particularly the extensive ebook on Star Wars sources.

Star Wars and Akira KurosawaMay 28 2014

This video looks at the influence of Akira Kurosawa and his films (especially The Hidden Fortress) on George Lucas and Star Wars.

How are Samurai films and a car crash responsible for Star Wars? How did World War II affect the global film industry in the 20th century? Why are Jedi called Jedi?? Give us 8 minutes, and we'll explain it all...

(via devour)

How to do visual comedyMay 27 2014

Using Edgar Wright as a positive example, Tony Zhou laments the lack of good visual comedy in American comedies and provides examples from Wright's films (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, etc.) to show how it's done properly.

Hot Fuzz is one of my favorite comedies...the scene Zhou shows of the Andys sliding off screen and then quickly back in consistently leaves me in stitches. (via digg)

The Lego MovieMay 22 2014

Lego Movie

If you missed it in the theater (like us), The Lego Movie is available to buy on Amazon right now. I mean, you could wait until mid-June for the DVD/Blu-ray, but one of your kids' friends is going to see it this way and come to school and lord it over your kid that he saw THE LEGO MOVIE AT HOME and then your kid is going to feel bad and why would you want that so you should just buck up and watch it already so your kid can have the cool cred at school for once and parlay that into greater social & academic success and then she'll get into Harvard and have a fantastic life. What I'm saying is, watch The Lego Movie now and your child will become President basically. Why wouldn't you want that? Are you history's greatest monster? Ok, I'm calling child services...

Life ItselfMay 21 2014

The trailer for the documentary about Roger Ebert is out:

Two thumbs up, way up. (thx, david)

Interstellar trailerMay 16 2014

Can I get a McConaugheeeeey? The first trailer for Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is out.

io9 called it "thrilling", but I'm gonna give this one a "hmmmmm."

There Will Be Blood with live accompanimentMay 15 2014

The Wordless Music Orchestra will offer live accompaniment of two screenings of There Will Be Blood in NYC in September. The composer of the film's score, Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, will play a musical instrument called the ondes Martenot as part of the performances.

This fall, the Wordless Music Orchestra will once again collaborate with Jonny Greenwood for the U.S. premiere of There Will Be Blood Live: a full screening and live film score to Paul Thomas Anderson's 2007 masterpiece, which will be projected onto a massive 50' movie screen at the historic and absurdly beautiful United Palace Theatre: the second-largest movie screen in all of New York City.

For these shows, the film's original score -- comprising music by Jonny Greenwood, Arvo Part, and Brahms -- will be conducted by Ryan McAdams, and performed by 50+ members of the Wordless Music Orchestra, including Jonny Greenwood, who will play the ondes martenot part in both performances of his own film score.

Tickets on sale now. See you there? (thx, gabe)

Free outdoor movies in NYC for summer 2014May 14 2014

NYCgo has an extensive list of all free movie screenings happening around NYC this summer. Most of them are outdoors. Some highlights:

June 22: Coming to America, Habana Outpost
July 9: Jurassic Park, Museum of Jewish Heritage
July 30: The Princess Bride, Riverside Park
July 31: The Hunt for Red October, flight deck of the Intrepid
August 6: The Big Lebowski, McCarren Park
August 8: Groundhog Day, Hudson River Park at Pier 46

Someone should make an iCal/Google Calendar calendar of these screenings.

Update: Tim made a calendar of all the free movie events. (thx, tim!)

Update: And here's a Twitter account you can follow for summer movie reminders: @nycsummerfilms. (via frank)

Creation clip from NoahMay 12 2014

This was one of my favorite scenes the film...Russell Crowe's Noah telling his children the creation story, which ends up being half supernatural and half evolution.

Worth watching for the special effects alone.

How to Build a Time MachineMay 08 2014

How to Build a Time Machine is a documentary about two men on separate quests to build their own time machines. Here's a teaser trailer:

Ronald Mallett's reason for his search for a way to travel through time is quite poignant...he shared his story in a book and on an episode of This American Life back in 2007. (via ★interesting)

Star Wars prequels, recutMay 08 2014

So, this showed up on Vimeo last night and will likely be pulled soon (so hit that "download" button while you can), but here's the deal. In 2012, actor Topher Grace showed an edit he'd done of episodes I-III of Star Wars to a bunch of friends, trimming the 7 hours of prequels down into 85 action-packed minutes of pure story. This Vimeo edit is longer (2:45) and is "based on the structure conceived by actor Topher Grace", which you can read about here.

Grace's version of the film(s) centers on Anakin's training and friendship with Obi-Wan, and his relationship with Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman). Gone are Trade Federation blockades, the Gungan city, the whole Padmé handmaiden storyline, the explanation of midichlorians, the galactic senate and the boring politics, Anakin's origins (a backstory which never really needed to be seen in the first place), the droid army's attack on Naboo, and Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) appears only briefly for only one line of dialogue, used as a set-up to introduce us to the Queen.

(via @bursts)

Pixel Studio GhibliApr 30 2014

Pixel Totoro

Richard Evans rendered some of the best-known Studio Ghibli characters in pixel art style.

The Wes Anderson soundtrack collectionApr 29 2014

Twee out with more than 9 hours of music from Wes Anderson's movies:

BoyhoodApr 25 2014

Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise) took 12 years to make his new movie, Boyhood. The star of Boyhood, Ellar Coltrane, was seven years old when filming started, and Linklater returned to the story every year for a few days of shooting to construct a movie about a boy growing from a first-grader to an adult and his changing relationship with his parents.

This looks amazing. What an undertaking.

VFX reels for Grand Budapest and NoahApr 25 2014

LOOK Effects did the visual effects for Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel and Darren Aronofsky's Noah. (via @Colossal)

Forrest Gump by Wes AndersonApr 25 2014

By Louis Paquet, the opening titles of Forrest Gump if it were directed by Wes Anderson.

(via @kyledenlinger)

Tim's VermeerApr 22 2014

It's been suggested that perhaps Johannes Vermeer painted his exacting masterpieces with the help of mirrors and lenses. Tim Jenison learned of these suggestions and started to study the problem.

He was in no rush. His R&D period lasted five years. He went to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. "Looking at their Vermeers," he says, "I had an epiphany" -- the first of several. "The photographic tone is what jumped out at me. Why was Vermeer so realistic? Because he got the values right," meaning the color values. "Vermeer got it right in ways that the eye couldn't see. It looked to me like Vermeer was painting in a way that was impossible. I jumped into studying art."

A recent documentary called Tim's Vermeer (directed by Penn & Teller's Teller) follows Jenison's quest to construct a contraption that allows someone to paint as Vermeer did. Here's a trailer:

Not sure you can find the movie in theaters anymore, but it should be out on DVD/download soon.

The top 100 animated moviesApr 17 2014

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

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

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

Let It Go internationallyApr 16 2014

Frozen, Let It Go

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

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

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

(via @waxpancake & @Ilovetoscore)

Soundtrack for The Unknown KnownApr 14 2014

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

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

Super Toy Teddy

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

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

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

Watch The Unknown KnownApr 06 2014

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

2001 behind-the-scenes photosApr 03 2014

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

2001 Behind 012001 Behind 02

Those are a pair of smooth criminals right there.

Shaun the Sheep MovieApr 03 2014

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

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

The history of the movie trailerApr 03 2014

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

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

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

Finding Vivian Maier now out in theatersApr 01 2014

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

Noah soundtrackMar 31 2014

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

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

Donald Rumsfeld: The Unknown KnownMar 26 2014

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

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

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

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

Update: Here's part 2.

The design of Grand Budapest HotelMar 24 2014

Grand Budapest

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

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

Creativity, Inc.Mar 21 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Budapest Hotel soundtrackMar 13 2014

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

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

Particle FeverMar 12 2014

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

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

The man that Disney builtMar 10 2014

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

I had just started a job as The Wall Street Journal's national affairs reporter. My wife, Cornelia, a former journalist, was home with him -- a new story every day, a new horror. He could barely use a sippy cup, though he'd long ago graduated to a big-boy cup. He wove about like someone walking with his eyes shut. "It doesn't make sense," I'd say at night. "You don't grow backward." Had he been injured somehow when he was out of our sight, banged his head, swallowed something poisonous? It was like searching for clues to a kidnapping.

After visits to several doctors, we first heard the word "autism." Later, it would be fine-tuned to "regressive autism," now affecting roughly a third of children with the disorder. Unlike the kids born with it, this group seems typical until somewhere between 18 and 36 months -- then they vanish. Some never get their speech back. Families stop watching those early videos, their child waving to the camera. Too painful. That child's gone.

But a tenuous connection remained between Owen and his pre-autistic self: Disney movies. And through them, Owen slowly learns how to communicate with the outside world again.

So we join him upstairs, all of us, on a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon in November 1994. Owen is already on the bed, oblivious to our arrival, murmuring gibberish.... "Juicervose, juicervose." It is something we've been hearing for the past few weeks. Cornelia thinks maybe he wants more juice; but no, he refuses the sippy cup. "The Little Mermaid" is playing as we settle in, propping up pillows. We've all seen it at least a dozen times, but it's at one of the best parts: where Ursula the sea witch, an acerbic diva, sings her song of villainy, "Poor Unfortunate Souls," to the selfish mermaid, Ariel, setting up the part in which Ursula will turn Ariel into a human, allowing her to seek out the handsome prince, in exchange for her voice.

When the song is over, Owen lifts the remote. Hits rewind.

"Come on, Owen, just let it play!" Walt moans. But Owen goes back just 20 seconds or so, to the song's next-to-last stanza, with Ursula shouting:

Go ahead -- make your choice!

I'm a very busy woman, and I haven't got all day.

It won't cost much, just your voice!

He does it again. Stop. Rewind. Play. And one more time. On the fourth pass, Cornelia whispers, "It's not 'juice.' " I barely hear her. "What?" "It's not 'juice.' It's 'just' ... 'just your voice'!"

I grab Owen by the shoulders. "Just your voice! Is that what you're saying?!"

He looks right at me, our first real eye contact in a year. "Juicervose! Juicervose! Juicervose!"

Walt starts to shout, "Owen's talking again!" A mermaid lost her voice in a moment of transformation. So did this silent boy. "Juicervose! Juicervose! Juicervose!" Owen keeps saying it, watching us shout and cheer. And then we're up, all of us, bouncing on the bed. Owen, too, singing it over and over -- "Juicervose!" -- as Cornelia, tears beginning to fall, whispers softly, "Thank God, he's in there."

This is the best thing I've read in a month, so so heartbreaking and amazing. Just pre-ordered the book...can't wait to read the full version.

Star Wars HighMar 06 2014

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

Luke and Leia in high school

Great Scott, the Force is strong in these two.

Jurassic UnixMar 03 2014

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

Jurassic Park Unix

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

The unique visual style of Wes AndersonMar 03 2014

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

Nicely edited together by Nelson Carvajal at Way Too Indie.

Gosford ParkFeb 25 2014

Gosford Park

If you're having Downton Abbey withdrawals, may I suggest Robert Altman's Gosford Park? Written by Downton creator Julian Fellowes, it's a proto-Downton of sorts: lots of upstairs/downstairs with a dash of mystery. And the cast! Clive Owen, Emily Watson, Stephen Fry, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillippe...and Maggie Smith plays a witty countess.

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

Andy's mom owned Jessie?Feb 25 2014

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

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

I laughed. I then agreed.

Previously: a grand unified theory of Pixar.

Evolution of the Warner Bros logoFeb 25 2014

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

Saul Bass Warner Logo

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

A Brief History of TimeFeb 25 2014

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

And introducing: the billing blockFeb 24 2014

This is called a billing block:

Billing Block

You find it at the bottom of movie posters and often at the end of movie trailers. In an Op-Art piece from last year, Ben Schott explains how the billing block is carefully constructed with information from contracts and legal agreements.

The content, order and format of the billing block are governed by two things: personal service contracts with cast and crew, and industrywide agreements with professional guilds -- notably the Directors Guild of America (D.G.A.) and the Writers Guild of America (W.G.A.). Thus, while some elements of the billing block remain consistent, others depend of the type of film and on individual negotiations. That said, there has been a marked inflation in billing block credits. An "Ocean's 11" poster from 1960 credited just three noncast individuals; the 2001 remake poster credited, coincidentally, 11.

VHS vs CommunismFeb 18 2014

In a lovely short film, Ilinca Calugareanu explores the world of 1980s black market VHS movies in Communist Romania and finds the woman who did all the dubbed dialogue.

All the dialogue on these movies was dubbed into Romanian in a husky, high-pitched woman's voice. Throughout my childhood, these films provided a glimpse into the forbidden West, resplendent with blue jeans, Coke and skyscrapers. As Hollywood movies became ubiquitous through the black market, this voice became one of the most recognizable in Romania. Yet no one knew who she was.

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

Kurzweil reviews HerFeb 18 2014

Futurist Ray Kurzweil reviews Spike Jonze's Her.

I would place some of the elements in Jonze's depiction at around 2020, give or take a couple of years, such as the diffident and insulting videogame character he interacts with, and the pin-sized cameras that one can place like a freckle on one's face. Other elements seem more like 2014, such as the flat-panel displays, notebooks and mobile devices.

Samantha herself I would place at 2029, when the leap to human-level AI would be reasonably believable. There are some incongruities, however. As I mentioned, a lot of the dramatic tension is provided by the fact that Theodore's love interest does not have a body. But this is an unrealistic notion. It would be technically trivial in the future to provide her a virtual visual presence to match her virtual auditory presence, using, lens-mounted displays, for example, that display images onto Theodore's retinas.

According to Jonze in interviews, Kurzweil's work on the singularity was a definite influence on the movie.

How Criterion restores a filmFeb 18 2014

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

Classic Movies in Miniature StyleFeb 11 2014

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

Murat Palta ClockworkMurat Palta Kill Bill

Great stuff. (via @pieratt)

Watch Philip Seymour Hoffman's films onlineFeb 05 2014

Synecdoche Poster

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

ps. The links to Amazon include my affiliates code...proceeds from purchases made through those links will be matched by me and will be donated to the Labyrinth Theater Company, which Hoffman co-founded and where he served as creative director for many years.

2001: A Font OdysseyFeb 03 2014

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

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

Best visual effects Oscar winnersJan 30 2014

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

(via devour)

Arcade Fire: Her soundtrack will be releasedJan 30 2014

In an interview with an Australian radio station, Arcade Fire's Win Butler said that the music on the Her movie soundtrack will see an official release in some form. Here's what Butler said about it:

We're just slow as a band. The music will get out there, it's just, like, a question of if we want to sell it to people or give to people or record other songs or whatever. There are many pieces on the soundtrack that are kind of based on actual songs that we've never really recorded. Yeah, there's a song called Milk and Honey and a song called Dimensions that are, like, lost great Arcade Fire songs. They are actually just things that, like, fit the world of the movie and then we kind of wrote them to the film.

That's good news! Here's the whole interview (they start talking about Her at 15:40):

Listen to the soundtrack for HerJan 27 2014

According to Spike Jonze, there might not be an official release of the soundtrack for Her (performed by Arcade Fire), but the whole thing is somehow currently on the internet for your listening pleasure:

Update: Win Butler of Arcade Fire now says the Her soundtrack will be released in some form eventually.

The Godfather shooting locationsJan 27 2014

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

Because the film is a period piece, The Godfather actually presents a fascinating record of what 1940s-era New York City locations still existed in the early-1970s. Sadly, many of them are now gone. What still remains? Let's take a closer look.

Shooting on the short endsJan 24 2014

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

Ludwig: Our biggest cost was getting film. Film comes in 1,000-foot loads and 400-foot loads. On a big movie, they'll throw away the end of the film, like the last hundred feet or so.

Liman: We shot most of the movie with these 100-foot short ends. It's a minute of film. Which also meant the actors could get through 60 seconds of a scene and I'd have to call reload.

Wurmfeld: I cultivated a lot of relationships with the people around town selling short ends.

LaLoggia: I called this place in L.A. that does recycled, re-canned short ends and I just begged for the cheapest price we could get. (Many of the short ends came from the movie Twister.)

Liman: The problem with shooting on short ends, though, is that it takes four minutes to reload a conventional camera. I thought to myself: We'll never get through the movie if we shoot a minute, spend four minutes reloading, shoot a minute, spend four minutes reloading. You'll never get any kind of rhythm going. So I decided I would shoot the movie with this documentary 35-millimeter film camera that was not designed to shoot dialogue because it sounds like a sewing machine.

Ludwig: The camera was much louder than a regular camera that you'd use for a feature film. But it's easy to load and very compact. I think it was developed so Godard could have a camera that would fit into his bicycle basket.

Liman: To absorb the sound, I would take my down jacket and put it over the camera and then take the two arms and tie them together underneath the lens. And then my comforter would just get wrapped around the whole thing once. Jon would describe it like he was acting in front of a big, fluffy snowball. But I really think that as insane as that setup was, it created a really safe environment for the actors. Vince really did some extraordinary things, like the scene where he's supposed to be drunk and he jumps up on the table. You know, he had to do that in front of a lot of people and I feel like they looked at me and they were like, Doug is clearly not being self-conscious.

Favreau: There was never enough time and never enough film.

Liman: Every day we'd panic because I was shooting more film than I thought I was gonna shoot and we didn't have enough film and we didn't have any money.

LaLoggia: I used to hide film in the trunk of my car because Doug could not help himself. He just wanted to shoot, shoot, shoot, so we would lie to him and say that we were out of film.

Whatever it takes, baby.

Lufthansa heist crooks nabbedJan 23 2014

Whenever we needed money, we'd rob the airport. To us, it was better than Citibank.

So said Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in GoodFellas. Now, more than twenty-five years after the Lufthansa heist that was fictionalized in Martin Scorsese's movie, the FBI has arrested five mobsters in connection with that crime and a list of other jobs that "reads like a greatest hits collection of the Mafia: armored truck heists, murder, attempted murder, extortion and bookmaking."

Fear and DesireJan 16 2014

Well lookie here, a restored full-length version of Stanley Kubrick's very first film, 1953's Fear and Desire, has popped up on YouTube:

Kubrick famously disliked his first film. From a 1994 episode of All Things Considered:

D'Arcy: But Stanley Kubrick hates the film and to keep it off the screen he threatened Film Forum with copyright violations, even though Fear and Desire is in the public domain. Through a Warner Brothers' publicist, Kubrick called his first feature 'a bumbling amateur film exercise'.

Goldstein: Kubrick had Warner Brothers send a letter out to all the press in town saying that the picture was boring and pretentious and of course, that only drew more attention to it. So it now, now it really is a must see, because now it's the picture Kubrick wants to suppress. So that makes it even sexier as a box office attraction. So I think he's increased our attendance four-fold.

(via @SebastianNebel)

Hoop Dreams is 20 years oldJan 15 2014

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

Basketball fanatics Steve James, Frederick Marx, and Peter Gilbert originally set out to make Hoop Dreams as a half-hour doc for PBS that would focus on the culture surrounding streetball. But as quickly as they got on the blacktop, they left it. The dreams of their subjects, Arthur Agee and William Gates, were too grand for just the playground, and instantly, the filmmakers were immersed in the young men's lives, showcasing both the good and bad.

Twenty years after the film premiered at Sundance and was awarded the festival's Audience Award, it's grown into an iconic work. Its snub in the Best Documentary category at the 67th Academy Awards in 1995 led to changes in the voting process. NBA players treat the movie as their own life story. It's been added to the Library Of Congress' National Film Registry. And when looking back on the film's 15th anniversary, Roger Ebert declared it "the great American documentary."

The Making of Raiders of the Lost ArkJan 10 2014

This is wonderful: an hour-long PBS documentary from 1981 on the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Lots of behind the scenes footage, interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Ford, etc.

I love how delighted Spielberg is after the idol exchange scene.

Wes Anderson slow motion supercutJan 09 2014

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

(via devour)

The Secret Life of Walter MittyDec 30 2013

Currently out in theaters is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig. The film is based on a short story of the same name by James Thurber, first published in the New Yorker in 1939 and available to read for free on their website.

"We're going through!" The Commander's voice was like thin ice breaking. He wore his full-dress uniform, with the heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray eye. "We can't make it, sir. It's spoiling for a hurricane, if you ask me." "I'm not asking you, Lieutenant Berg," said the Commander. "Throw on the power lights! Rev her up to 8,500! We're going through!" The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. The Commander stared at the ice forming on the pilot window. He walked over and twisted a row of complicated dials. "Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!" he shouted. "Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!" repeated Lieutenant Berg. "Full strength in No. 3 turret!" shouted the Commander. "Full strength in No. 3 turret!" The crew, bending to their various tasks in the huge, hurtling eight-engined Navy hydroplane, looked at each other and grinned. "The Old Man'll get us through," they said to one another. "The Old Man ain't afraid of Hell!" ...

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

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

Clooney W Mag

The Wolf of Bedford FallsDec 20 2013

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

12 O'Clock BoysDec 16 2013

12 O'Clock Boys is a documentary about an Baltimore dirt-bike gang.

Pug, a wisecracking 13 year old living on a dangerous Westside block, has one goal in mind: to join The Twelve O'Clock Boys; the notorious urban dirt-bike gang of Baltimore. Converging from all parts of the inner city, they invade the streets and clash with police, who are forbidden to chase the bikes for fear of endangering the public. When Pug's older brother dies suddenly, he looks to the pack for mentorship, spurred by their dangerous lifestyle.

(via @aaroncoleman0)

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

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

Story finds Lipsky accompanying Wallace across the country on a book tour promoting "Infinite Jest," just as Wallace starts to become famous. Along the way, jealousy and competition bubbles up between the two writers as they discuss women, depression and the pros and cons of fame.

Reaction from the DFW fan club abut Segel playing DFW has been tepid, to say the least.

Godard's list of best American filmsDec 09 2013

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

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

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

Director's cut of The Dark CrystalDec 06 2013

Using a black & white workprint of The Dark Crystal that Jim Henson and Frank Oz wanted to release, YouTube user scoodidabop made a full-length director's cut of the film. It's a bit rough in spots, but the original vision is all there.

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

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

In a masterfully edited video, David Ehrlich presents his 25 favorite films of 2013.

Fantastic. This video makes me want to stop what I'm doing and watch movies for a week. It's a good year for it apparently...both Tyler Cowen and Bruce Handy argue that 2013 is an exceptional year for movies. I'm still fond of 1999... (via @brillhart)

Gender roles and monogamy in The Hunger GamesDec 04 2013

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

But one of the most unusual things about Katniss isn't the way she defies typical gender roles for heroines, but the way Peeta, her arena partner and one of her two love interests, defies typical Hollywood versions of gender roles for boyfriends.

Consider the evidence: Peeta's family runs a bakery. He can literally bake a cherry pie, as the old song says.

He is physically tough, but markedly less so than she is. He's got a good firm spine, but he lacks her disconnected approach to killing. Over and over, she finds herself screaming "PEETA!", not calling for help but going to help, and then running, because he's gone and done some damn fool thing like gotten himself electrocuted.

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

Forcing Katniss to choose is forcing Katniss into monogamy, and as I suggested above, into doing gender to complement her partner. Victoria Robinson points out in her article, "My Baby Just Cares for Me," that monogamy compels women to invest too much time, energy, and resources into an individual man and limits their autonomy and relationships with others. What Robinson doesn't talk about is how it also limits women's range of how they might do gender in relationship to others.

It also limits men's range of doing gender in relationships. Wouldn't it be nice if Peeta and Gale never felt the pressure to be something they are not? Imagine how Peeta's and Gale's masculinities would have to be reconfigured to accommodate and accept each other?

Maybe this is why the end of Catching Fire (minor spoilers!) -- Katniss as the cliched irrational hysterical woman who can't be trusted with information -- felt so out of place compared to her gender fluidity throughout the rest of the movie.

Coen brothers next film set in ancient RomeDec 04 2013

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

Right now, the brothers are plainly excited about what they're writing, which they proudly explain, is set in ancient Rome. It's the allure of the unexpected, all over again.

"It's like: Would you ever do a sandal movie?" laughs Joel. "It's big," says Ethan, grinning. "We're interested in the big questions. And we don't (expletive) around with subtext. This one especially."

Though their movies usually revel in the absurdity of life's predicaments, Ethan promises this film has answers: "It's not like our piddly 'A Serious Man.'" Chimes Joel: "That was a cop-out. We just totally chickened out on that one."

Roger Ebert documentaryNov 25 2013

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

LIFE ITSELF, the first ever feature-length documentary on the life of Roger Ebert, covers the prolific critic's life journey from his days at the University of Illinois, to his move to Chicago where he became the first film critic ever to win the Pulitzer Prize, then to television where he and Gene Siskel became iconic stars, and finally to what Roger referred to as "his third act"; how he overcame disabilities wrought by cancer to became a major voice on the internet and through social media.

Director Steve James (HOOP DREAMS) has conducted interviews with over two dozen people, including lifelong friends, professional colleagues, the first ever interview with Gene Siskel's wife, and filmmakers Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, Ramin Bahrani, Gregory Nava, Ava DuVernay, and Martin Scorsese, who is one of the executive producers along with Steven Zaillian.

Aningaaq, a Gravity companion filmNov 21 2013

[Mild spoilers] During the production of Gravity, Jonas Cuaron (co-writer of the screenplay and Alfonso Cuaron's son) shot a short film that shows the other side of the conversation that Sandra Bullock's character had while in the Soyuz capsule. In the film, an Inuit fisherman struggles to communicate with the distressed voice on the other end of his radio.

The short was filmed "guerrilla style" on location on a budget of about $100,000 -- most of which went toward the 10-person crew's travel costs -- and Cuaron completed it in time to meld the dialogue into Gravity's final sound mix. The result is a seamless conversation between Aningaaq and Ryan, stranded 200 miles above him, the twin stories of isolated human survival providing thematic cohesion. Still, Jonas says he was careful "to make it a piece that could stand on its own." Should both get Oscar noms, an interesting dynamic would emerge: Two films potentially could win for representing different sides of one conversation, to say nothing of having come from father and son.

"Life in Ikea is impossible"Nov 15 2013

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

(via ★interesting)

Trailer for NoahNov 14 2013

Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan) has made a movie called Noah, about Noah's ark. It stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins. Here's the trailer:

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

The effortless fame of George ClooneyNov 12 2013

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

He has other houses. He has one, famously, on Lake Como, in Italy, and he has built another in Cabo. In this, he is not so much of a throwback-after all, Leonardo DiCaprio has a house in Cabo. Indeed, Clooney and DiCaprio once ran into each other in Cabo and struck up a conversation based on their common interest in basketball. They each have ongoing games, and their ongoing games have attained a celebrity of their own. Clooney suggested they might play someday. DiCaprio said sure, but felt compelled to add, "You know, we're pretty serious."

They played at a neighborhood court. "You know, I can play," Clooney says in his living room. "I'm not great, by any means, but I played high school basketball, and I know I can play. I also know that you don't talk shit unless you can play. And the thing about playing Leo is you have all these guys talking shit. We get there, and there's this guy, Danny A I think his name is. Danny A is this club kid from New York. And he comes up to me and says, 'We played once at Chelsea Piers. I kicked your ass.' I said, 'I've only played at Chelsea Piers once in my life and ran the table. So if we played, you didn't kick anybody's ass.' And so then we're watching them warm up, and they're doing this weave around the court, and one of the guys I play with says, 'You know we're going to kill these guys, right?' Because they can't play at all. We're all like fifty years old, and we beat them three straight: 11-0, 11-0, 11-0. And the discrepancy between their game and how they talked about their game made me think of how important it is to have someone in your life to tell you what's what. I'm not sure if Leo has someone like that."

Hogwarts' Board of Education report largely unsatisfactoryNov 06 2013

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

Pupils at Hogwarts have access to a reasonably wide range of esoteric qualifications, suited to its key demographic. As an independent school, it does not have to follow the National Curriculum closely; however, it is disappointing to note that basic requirements such as English, Mathematics and Religious Education are all lacking or entirely missing from the school's syllabus. This has had adverse effects on all students, many of whom have never even been taught basic KS1 or 2 literacy. A few students have attended state or independent primary schools, and these students typically perform very well in contrast to their peers.

The majority of students appear to be under-performing, with most pupils struggling in all their lessons, most of which appear to be set at too challenging a level. One particular class, which seemed to be based on A-Level chemistry, proved too difficult for even the most proficient students. Only one pupil managed to complete the lesson objectives, mainly thanks to his use of an annotated text book.

(via slate)

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