kottke.org posts about movies

Powers of Ten flipbookJul 27 2015

Using images found on the internet through Google's visually similar images feature, NASA, U.S. Geological Survey, and various mapping services, Kelli Anderson recreated part of the Eames' iconic Powers of Ten as a flipbook. Watch a video here:

Or play around with a virtual flipbook at Anderson's site. This could not possibly be anymore in my wheelhouse. Here's the nitty gritty on how she made it happen.

The inspiration for making discontinuous-bits-of-culture into something continuous goes back to 2011. Some of my friends camped out on a sidewalk to see Christian Marclay's The Clock. Like a loser with a deadline, I missed out-only catching it years later at MoMA. In the day-long film, Marclay recreates each minute of the 24-hour day using clips from films featuring the current time-on a clock or watch. It runs in perfect synchronization with the audience's day (so: while a museum crowd slumps sleepily in their chairs at 6am, starlets hit snooze on the clocks onscreen.)

Trailer for a Steve Jobs documentaryJul 27 2015

There's a documentary on Steve Jobs coming out called Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. The director is Alex Gibney, who directed the excellent Going Clear (about Scientology), We Steal Secrets (about Wikileaks), and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. The trailer:

The origin of sci-fi movie soundsJul 24 2015

From Aaron Reese at Hopes&Fears, a piece on sci-fi movie sound effects. It's chock full of interesting tidbits, like where King Kong's chest-beating sound came from:

Initial attempts hitting a fixed kettle drum with paddled-drumsticks didn't work, with Spivak saying the sound wasn't "fleshy" enough. An experiment beating the floor failed as well. So Spivak decided to beat one of his assistant's chests with drumsticks instead, saying "If wood will not take the place of flesh, then let's use flesh." Sure enough, this was the sound used for production.

The stabbing noise in Psycho is a knife plunging into a melon:

In a recording studio, prop man [Bob] Bone auditioned the melons for Hitchcock, who sat listening with his eyes closed. When the table was littered with shredded fruit, Hitchcock opened his eyes, and intoned simply: "Casaba."

And my favorite, from Terminator 2:

In Robert Patrick's T-1000 prison break scene, the robot phases through the cell bars with a slurpy metallic sound. Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom revealed the effect was achieved by a simple solution from the sound of dog food being slowly sucked out of the can.

See also a short video tribute to the sounds of Star Wars.

The Art of the Car ChaseJul 24 2015

Casper Christensen cut together footage from dozens of movie car chases into one big coherent chase. Well, as coherent as you can get when you're dealing with car chases.

There's some fun and clever editing in here...I particularly enjoyed the stitching together of Indiana Jones and Axel Foley. And I loved the brief clip of C'était un rendez-vous, which if you haven't seen it, is a quick and thrilling watch.

Magic Mike XXL embraces strip club classicsJul 23 2015

In Pitchfork, Susan Shepard writes about how Magic Mike XXL uses strip club music to full advantage.

MMXXL functions more like a musical in that it uses the dance sequences deliberately to advance the plot; Mike doesn't talk about wanting to get the band back together, he dances about it when "Pony" comes on in his workshop. Big Dick Richie finds the heart of his stripper character dancing to "I Want It That Way". Malik challenges Mike to "Sex You". And ultimately, they all find out something about themselves when they create new routines to new songs for the finale. It could transition seamlessly to the stage. They're even already acting out the lyrics, which are for the most part of "this is what I want to do to you" tradition of R&B.

The film gets at the heart of strip club culture with its scenes at Domina, the exclusive club run by Mike's former lover and working partner, Rome. All the best strip club ideas come from black clubs, specifically those in the South. Every good innovation in strip club dancing, music, and costume styles started in Atlanta or Houston or Miami clubs. The way the Florida dancers feel when they walk in and see Augustus, Andre, and Malik outdance and outperform them is exactly what it feels like to walk into Magic City from the Cheetah. Here is the future, here is how far behind it you are with your fireman routines and Kiss songs.

Having never been to a strip club in my entire life (WHAT?!! I know! I know!), I had no idea that Nine Inch Nails' Closer was a strip club staple.

My very first stage performance was to the Revolting Cocks' version of "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" and Nine Inch Nails' "Closer", about a month after it had come out. It is one of those songs strippers fight over performing to because it's that good and gets such a crowd response. "Closer" might as well be strip club furniture.

But it makes sense. Closer is one of the catchiest pop songs ever made. Shortly after it came out, I remember going to an on-campus party at which a friend of mine was DJing. He was playing mostly dance music -- some club, some top 40ish, and some electronica -- but threw on Closer for the benefit of a friend of ours who was a big industrial and NIN fan. Everyone loved it and got out onto the dance floor: the jocks, the ravers, the sorority girls, the physics club geeks. Our friend wasn't too happy about it though. Somehow, Nine Inch Nails now belonged to everyone. Cultural appropriation is a biiii....

Ultimate commentary on Raiders of the Lost ArkJul 23 2015

If you are a fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark -- and who isn't? -- then this is your holy grail: a feature-length commentary on the movie by Jamie Benning that includes seemingly every tidbit related to the film, including deleted scenes, audio commentary from the cast and crew, behind the scenes video, and much more. An incredible resource in understanding the film.

Benning has also done similarly excellent commentaries for Jaws, Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. (via @drwave)

Star Wars-style opening crawls of the day's newsJul 23 2015

Every day, a program written by Julien Deswaef selects a war-related news item from the NY Times, formats it in the style of the infamous Star Wars opening crawl (complete with John Williams' score), and posts the results to YouTube.

Published yesterday, the crawl for Episode XXVII was taken from a NY Times article about an Obama speech about the Iranian nuclear deal.

Here's how the project was made and if you'd like to try it yourself, grab the source code. (via prosthetic knowledge)

The top 10 most beautiful movies of all timeJul 23 2015

Ok, so narrowing down all of the beautifully shot movies in the world to a list of just 10 is absurd, but to their credit, the gang at Cinefix manage to mention more than 50 or 60 movies in their top 10 review. If you've only seen even a few of these, you're doing well.

Manhattan, Citizen Kane, The Fall, 2001, Hero, The Tree of Life. Damn.

"It's a Unix system, I know this"Jul 22 2015

Jurassic Park OS

Hold onto your butts, gang... I just found out, via Pixar's Michael B. Johnson, that the 3D file manager that Lex uses in Jurassic Park -- "It's a Unix system, I know this" -- was a real thing. FSN (File System Navigator) was a demo tool for Silicon Graphics' IRIX operating system that you could download from their web site.

P.S. In that same thread, Johnson shares that his office was the inspiration for Dennis Nedry's work area.

The Good DinosaurJul 22 2015

For the first time since 2005, Pixar didn't release a movie last year but are doubling up this year with Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. Here's the trailer for The Good Dinosaur, which looks like much more of a just-for-kids movie than Inside Out.

How to make a Hattori Hanzo sword from Kill BillJul 21 2015

Man at Arms is a YouTube show in which real-life weapons from movies and TV shows are recreated. Recently they made the Bride's Hattori Hanzo sword from Kill Bill. They started from scratch by building a furnace from before the Edo period (before 1603) to smelt the iron ore.

I know zero about swords, but it looks like these guys really did their homework in making as close to a traditional katana blade as they could. (via devour)

The worst movie special effects everJul 17 2015

A compilation of some of the world special effects ever to make it to the big screen. Some of these are almost too bad to believe.

(via devour)

A musical journey away from EarthJul 14 2015

Lightyear FM

Taking inspiration from the opening sequence of Contact, lightyear.fm is a musical journey away from the Earth. As you get farther out (say, 10 light years away, just past star Ross 154 in the constellation of Sagittarius), you hear music that was broadcast on the radio at that time (Gold Digger by Kanye West).

Radio broadcasts leave Earth at the speed of light. Scroll away from Earth and hear how far the biggest hits of the past have travelled. The farther away you get, the longer the waves take to travel there -- and the older the music you'll hear.

This is the coolest.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Comic-Con 2015 ReelJul 11 2015

They showed this 3 minute 30 second behind the scenes video of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Comic-Con yesterday.

Fans at San Diego Comic-Con's Hall H were treated to a special look behind the scenes of Star Wars:The Force Awakens by director J.J. Abrams, producer and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and writer Lawrence Kasdan. The filmmakers were joined on stage by cast members Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford to the surprise and delight of fans.

At the end of the Hall H presentation, the entire Hall H audience of more than 6,000 fans were all invited to continue the celebration and join cast and filmmakers at a surprise Star Wars Fan Concert. The San Diego Symphony performed the classic Star Wars music from John Williams at the Embarcadero Marina Park South.

I have zero interest in Comic-Con, but that would have been pretty cool to see.

The science of Pixar's Inside OutJul 10 2015

Psychologists Dacher Keltner and Paul Ekman served as scientific consultants during the production of Pixar's Inside Out. Keltner studies the origins of human emotion and Ekman pioneered research of microexpressions. In this NY Times piece, they discuss the science behind the movie.

Those quibbles aside, however, the movie's portrayal of sadness successfully dramatizes two central insights from the science of emotion.

First, emotions organize -- rather than disrupt -- rational thinking. Traditionally, in the history of Western thought, the prevailing view has been that emotions are enemies of rationality and disruptive of cooperative social relations.

...

Second, emotions organize -- rather than disrupt -- our social lives. Studies have found, for example, that emotions structure (not just color) such disparate social interactions as attachment between parents and children, sibling conflicts, flirtations between young courters and negotiations between rivals.

I've thought about Inside Out every day since I saw it. Pixar clearly did their homework on the emotional stuff and it paid off.

The Art of the Opening ShotJul 09 2015

The opening scenes from dozens of movies, including 2001, There Will Be Blood, Lost in Translation, Seven Samurai, and Star Wars.

(via devour)

Highlighting Hollywood's race problemJul 09 2015

On his YouTube channel, Dylan Marron is cutting down films to only include dialogue spoken by persons of color. Under those conditions, Moonrise Kingdom is 10 seconds long. Her is about 40 seconds. Noah is 0 seconds.

(via @riondotnu)

Remaster of The Iron Giant coming out in theatersJul 08 2015

Iron Giant

The Iron Giant has been remastered and burnished with a pair of extra scenes for a re-release in US theaters scheduled for the end of September.

Warner Bros. and Fathom Events are teaming up to bring The Iron Giant back to life. The beloved 1999 animated film is being remastered and augmented with new footage, and it's coming to select American theatres as what the studio's calling the "Signature Edition" on September 30th. There'll also be an encore presentation in select theatres a few days later on October 4th.

The movie earned a respectable $23 million at the box office and critical acclaim, but failed to recoup its $70 million production budget. After reading a bunch of positive reviews, including one from my cinematic divining rod Roger Ebert, I was one of the brave few souls to see The Iron Giant in the theater. Hope to catch it again in September. (via @anildash)

The Dissolve dissolvesJul 08 2015

Bummer, film site The Dissolve has shut down. They burned bright for a short time.

For the past two years-well, two years this Friday -- it's been our pleasure to put up this site, a site founded on and driven by a love for movies, alongside a company with passion and talent for creating thoughtful, important work. Sadly, because of the various challenges inherent in launching a freestanding website in a crowded publishing environment, financial and otherwise, today is the last day we will be doing that. We've had this opportunity thanks to Pitchfork, which has been incredibly supportive of our vision. We couldn't have asked for a better partner.

I've linked to a few of their things over the past few months, and the quality was always high. Tony Zhou has collected a few of his favorite pieces from the site.

Wes Anderson color palettesJul 08 2015

Color palettes derived from Wes Anderson movies.

Wes Anderson PalettesWes Anderson Palettes

Young Han Solo movie announcedJul 07 2015

Disney is proceeding at full steam in delivering more Star Wars to your eyeballs. Today they announced that Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, the duo behind The Lego Movie, will direct a movie about a young Han Solo.

The screenplay is written by Lawrence Kasdan and Jon Kasdan. The story focuses on how young Han Solo became the smuggler, thief, and scoundrel whom Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi first encountered in the cantina at Mos Eisley.

Release date is May 2018. As Princess Leia once said, "Disney, I hope you know what you're doing."

Books in the films of Wes AndersonJul 06 2015

Books loom large in Wes Anderson's movies. Several of his films open with opening books and Fantastic Mr. Fox is based on an actual book. Here's a nicely edited selection of bookish moments from Anderson's films.

In the work of Wes Anderson, books and art in general have a strong connection with memory. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) begins with a homonymous book, as does Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) begins and ends with a book. Moonrise Kingdom (2012) ends with a painting of a place which no longer exists. These movies have a clear message: books preserve stories, for they exist within them and live on through them.

Saul Bass' best film title design workJul 03 2015

Saul Bass designed the opening sequences for dozens of films, including North by Northwest, Psycho, West Side Story, and Goodfellas. Here's a look at some of his best work:

(via art of the title)

I Am Chris FarleyJun 29 2015

I Am Chris Farley is a feature length documentary on the comedian and movie star. Here's a trailer:

The film is out in theaters on July 31 and will be available as a digital download in August. (via buzzfeed)

Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive ThinkingJun 25 2015

Antidote Book

"Success through failure, calm through embracing anxiety..." This book sounds perfect for me. The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman.

Self-help books don't seem to work. Few of the many advantages of modern life seem capable of lifting our collective mood. Wealth -- even if you can get it -- doesn't necessarily lead to happiness. Romance, family life, and work often bring as much stress as joy. We can't even agree on what "happiness" means. So are we engaged in a futile pursuit? Or are we just going about it the wrong way?

Looking both east and west, in bulletins from the past and from far afield, Oliver Burkeman introduces us to an unusual group of people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. Whether experimental psychologists, terrorism experts, Buddhists, hardheaded business consultants, Greek philosophers, or modern-day gurus, they argue that in our personal lives, and in society at large, it's our constant effort to be happy that is making us miserable. And that there is an alternative path to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity, and uncertainty -- the very things we spend our lives trying to avoid. Thought-provoking, counterintuitive, and ultimately uplifting, The Antidote is the intelligent person's guide to understanding the much-misunderstood idea of happiness.

I learned about the book from Tyler Cowen, who notes:

[Burkeman] is one of the best non-fiction essay writers, and he remains oddly underrated in the United States. It is no mistake to simply buy his books sight unseen. I think of this book as "happiness for grumps."

Given Cowen's recent review of Inside Out, I wonder if [slight spoilers ahoy!] he noticed the similarity of Joy's a-ha moment w/r/t to Sadness at the end of the film to the book's "alternative path to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity, and uncertainty". Mmmm, zeitgeisty!

Inside the Making of Dr. StrangeloveJun 25 2015

Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove is a 45-minute behind-the-scenes documentary about Stanley Kubrick's kooky masterpiece (and one of my two favorite movies).1

And speaking of Kubrick, director Marc Forster is making a trilogy of films based on Kubrick's script for The Downslope, a movie about the Civil War. *tents fingers* Interesting...

  1. The other is Rushmore.

10 most controversial movies of all timeJun 24 2015

Brown Bunny, Cannibal Holocaust, The 120 Days of Sodom, and The Last Temptation of Christ... they are among the most controversial movies of all time.

Perhaps a little NSFW. (via devour)

Shopping with movie trailersJun 23 2015

ThetakeTheTake identifies products and places in movies so you can purchase or visit. For instance, there are dozens of products listed from Jurassic World...you can even play the trailer and product matches will pop up. (via @pieratt)

All 15 Pixar movies rankedJun 18 2015

Tim Grierson and Will Leitch did a pretty good job in this list of All 15 Pixar Movies, Ranked From Worst to Best.

We went back-and-forth on the top two here, but we ultimately had to go with [Wall-E], the most original and ambitious of all the Pixar movies. The first half-hour, which basically tells the story of the destruction of the planet and the devolution of the human race without a single line of dialogue, is total perfection: It's almost Kubrickian in its attention to detail and perspective, though it never feels cold or ungenerous.

Piece-of-shit Cars 2 is rightly parked at the bottom of the heap, Wall-E is obviously #1, and they correctly acknowledged Up as overrated. I would have rated the original Toy Story lower and Ratatouille higher, but overall: well done.

Zookeepers posing like Chris Pratt in Jurassic WorldJun 17 2015

Actual zookeepers taking photos of themselves doing Chris Pratt's Jurassic World velociraptor taming move is a thing. Here's the original:

Jurassic Zoo

And the imitators:

Jurassic ZooJurassic ZooJurassic Zoo

Found them here and here. If you find others, send them along!

Update: Laurel sent this one in from the California Academy of Sciences:

Jurassic ZooUpdate: Several more zookeepers being awesome via @ohmygoat1, @susiethefivetoedsloth, @parrotman_jon, and @kati_speer.

Jurassic ZooJurassic ZooJurassic ZooJurassic ZooUpdate: Ok, a few more via @MrDABailey, The Minnesota Zoo, The Georgia Aquarium, and Reddit.

Jurassic ZooJurassic ZooJurassic ZooJurassic ZooUpdate: One last photo brings this meme to a fitting close. This is Chris Pratt himself, taming some children during a recent visit to a local children's hospital.

Jurassic Zoo

(via @alexcarvalho)

Update: Ok, ok, one more and then that's it, America needs to move on. Here's the Dinosaur Curator of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History taming some actual dinosaurs, long-dead though they may be:

Jurassic Zoo

(via @thanland)

All six Star Wars films at onceJun 16 2015

All six films1 from the Star Wars series played at the same time, superimposed on top of each other.

Watch this while you can...I imagine it'll get taken down in a few hours/days.

  1. Until Disney decides to reboot episodes 1-3 in another 10 years, we are stuck with six Star Wars films in the canon. As Yoda once said, "Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force."

DerelictJun 12 2015

Derelict is a feature-length black & white film that splices about an hour of Alien and 90 minutes of Prometheus together into a single narrative.

'Derelict' is an editing project for academic purposes. 'Prometheus' wasn't exactly an Alien prequel, but this treats it as such by intercutting the events of Alien with Prometheus in a dual narrative structure. The goal was to assemble the material to emphasize the strengths of Prometheus as well as its ties to Alien.

(via ★interesting)

Get with The ProgramJun 11 2015

The Program is an upcoming film about the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity). It's based on David Walsh's book, Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong.

Amy Winehouse documentaryJun 10 2015

Amy is a documentary film about the life and career of singer Amy Winehouse. The director is Asif Kapadia, who also directed the excellent Senna, one of my favorite documentaries from the past few years. Here's the trailer:

The film studio behind the movie, A24, has been making some interesting films: Ex Machina, Bling Ring, Obvious Child, A Most Violent Year, The End of the Tour, Spring Breakers, Under the Skin, etc.

The Jurassic Park dossierJun 09 2015

As a kid, Michael M collected a notebook full of information related to Jurassic Park, as if he worked in the computing department of InGen, the company that built the park.

The dossier is fairly thick and contains numerous completely made-up documents like dinosaur tooth records, DNA diagrams, and correspondence between myself, my imaginary colleagues and some of my friends from school whom I'd somehow managed to rope into my delusions.

Broadly, the dossier consists of the impossibly dull minutiae of park admin leading up to the events of the movie. I essentially gave myself a boring office job in my spare time outside of school. If nothing else, it's a fascinating insight into the mind of the type of pubescent idiot who never had a sun tan.

Jurassic Park DossierJurassic Park DossierJurassic Park Dossier

Love this. I definitely did stuff like this when I was a kid, but not nearly as elaborate. (via @robinsloan)

The Earth MovesJun 09 2015

Filmmaker John Walter is making a film called The Earth Moves about Einstein on the Beach, the 1976 opera composed Philip Glass and directed by Robert Wilson. Walter and his team are soliciting funds to complete the film on Kickstarter.

In 2011, the original creators of Einstein on the Beach brought the opera to life again for what will most likely be its last presentation in their lifetime. Einstein on the Beach is an opera like no other. Telling its story requires a documentary like no other.

We completed shooting and editing The Earth Moves and we are all working very hard to finish the film for upcoming film festivals this fall. Now we need your support to fulfill the costs of color correction, media licensing, and sound mixing. Time is of the essence and every contribution helps our mission to complete this film.

Any additional support beyond the goal will go towards expanding the distribution of the film through educational markets and independent theaters nationally.

Bridge of SpiesJun 08 2015

Steven Spielberg is directing Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies, a movie about the negotiation to release U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers from Soviet custody. Here's the trailer:

The script was punched up by none other than the Coen brothers.

The Martian trailerJun 08 2015

I have not read the book it's based on, but the movie version of The Martian, starring Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott, looks quite promising:

I am going to have to science the shit out of this.

Apollo 13 with a touch of Interstellar...I can do that.

Theory: the Harry Potter series is about mental illnessJun 08 2015

This is an interesting theory about the Harry Potter series: the whole thing is about a mentally ill young boy (Harry) who is institutionalized by his parents (the Dursleys) in a mental institution (Hogwarts) and the contents of the books are Harry's fantasy.

In the Harry Potter series, his parents are famous wizards, who were famous in all the world for their unparalleled love for the boy Harry, which set the whole series in motion, killing them and leaving the boy a scarred orphan. (This is a fantasy, crafted as the direct opposite of the way in which children usually end up scarred -- through abuse and neglect.)

If we interpret the story as Harry's fantasy, then the Dursleys are Harry's real parents, and the Potters are imaginary. The Durselys either can't cope with the increasingly-delusional boy living with them, or perhaps they are merely abusive, and it's the abuse that's making him delusional. In any event, the parent-figures constantly mistreat him, favor the brother, and inflict endless cruelty and humiliation on him. One day, Harry snaps, and Dudley (who is really Harry's brother) is severely injured, in a way requiring repeated hospital treatments. (In the delusion, Harry imagines that a pig's tail is magically grown from Dudley's buttocks.) As a result of this incident, Harry is taken away to a "special school."

In praise of chairsJun 03 2015

Tony Zhou of Every Frame a Painting looks at the use of production design in movies. Specifically chairs. Chairs can tell you something about the world the film is set in, the characters who use them, or a specific situation.

Salad days: the gentrification of the selfJun 03 2015

Gen X was never supposed to get older. But a pair of recent essays by Tim Carmody and Choire Sicha show that the second third Greatest Generation is not immune to pivoting one's emotional startup when midlife approaches. In The Iceman List, Carmody reevaluates 80s movie heroes and finds the more traditionally Reagan-esque characters might have had a point.

But today, in the 2010s, Top Gun is a treat. It's as clean and shiny as a new dime. The cliches that later action films overloaded with world-building and backstory here present themselves unadorned, in all their purity. Cruise is just so charming, brimming with so much energy, it doesn't matter that he doesn't really know how to act yet. A bunch of Navy aviators singing Righteous Brothers in the bar looks like fun. Now that pilots, airmen, and aviators can serve in the US military openly without anyone asking who they sleep with, it's super that Iceman and Slider might be gay. And guess what?

Maverick is kind of a jerk. Iceman is totally right about him. In fact, Iceman is right about almost everything. We didn't notice this in the 1980s because everything about how the film is constructed tells us to sympathize with Maverick and hate Iceman's guts.

My God, we've become Ed Rooney. We are eating it. (Well, Ferris was a dick.) Sicha started smoking as a teenager in the 80s but after quitting recently, desires to "make a senior citizen's arrest" of his younger smoldering self, the Iceman to the Tom Cruise of his youth.

It's like KonMari, except easy, because the only things you throw out are your cigarettes and your entire sense of self.

My friend Emily said she was happy for me, but wistful, too. The last smoker quitting seemed like another kind of gentrification. Now I'm gone, too, along with the gas stations and all the stores that aren't 7-Eleven. But the emotional rent was just too high.

Quitting smoking is the khakis of existence. Quitting smoking is the Chipotle on St. Marks Place. I am totally not cool. I may as well be someone's stupid Brooklyn dad. My hair is its natural color. Most days I'm just wearing whatever. I do yoga endlessly. What am I now?

I can feel this gentrification of the self coming in my life. As someone who watched TV and used the internet 23 hours out of every day for the past 30 years, I'm wary of how much screen time my kids get. All that TV in my youth probably wasn't a good idea and the internet these days isn't what it used to be, right? In a talk at XOXO last year, Hank Green said:

You have no obligation to your former self. He is dumber than you and doesn't exist.

Ok! Pivot I will. Get off my lawn, younger self!

Tarantino's film homagesJun 02 2015

From The Flintstones to Band of Outsiders to Miller's Crossing, here's a look at some of the films referenced in Quentin Tarantino's movies.

(via devour)

The TribeJun 02 2015

The Tribe is set at a Ukrainian high school for the deaf. The film employs no subtitles or voiceovers; all communication is sign language and non-verbal acting. Here's the trailer...somewhat paradoxically, you'll want to use headphones or turn the sound up.

Winner of multiple 2014 Cannes Film Festival Awards (including the coveted Critics' Week Grand Prix), Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's The Tribe is an undeniably original and intense feature debut set in the insular world of a Ukrainian high school for the deaf. The Tribe unfolds through the non-verbal acting and sign language from a cast of deaf, non-professional actors -- with no need for subtitles or voice over -- resulting in a unique, never-before-experienced cinematic event that engages the audience on a new sensory level.

(thx, paul)

Trailer for Wes Anderson's The ShiningJun 01 2015

If you take Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel and mix in elements of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, the result is pretty good.

(via devour)

"Where are the solar powered cars?" and other questions about Mad Max: Fury RoadMay 29 2015

I saw Mad Max: Fury Road yesterday (enjoyed it) but have a few questions.

1. With gasoline in such short supply, I'm surprised the various groups in the movie didn't take more advantage of solar power to generate energy for electric vehicles and such. Sunshine is obviously abundant in post-apocalyptic Australia and from the looks of what was scavenged from before the nuclear war and the ingenuity on display in getting what they found to function, they should have been able to find even rudimentary solar cells and get them to work.

2. Speaking of energy scarcity, I wonder if the troop-pumping-up and opponent-intimidating function of the flamethrowing guitar player was worth all of the fuel spewed out of the end of his instrument and energy consumed by the incredible number of speakers on his rig.

3. The roads in the movie were in remarkable shape, aside from the swampland. Who was responsible for their upkeep? Even dirt roads need maintenance or they develop potholes and washboarding. And for what reason were they kept in such good condition outside of the Citadel/Gas Town/Bullet Farm area? Aside from Furiosa's Rig, the chase party, and two smallish motorcycle gangs, I saw no other vehicular traffic on the roads...and who would have been semi-regularly traveling out past the canyon anyway? To where? For what?

4. What was the political and economic arrangement between the Citadel, Gas Town, and the Bullet Farm? Did the Citadel trade their water and crops for gas and bullets? Or was Immortan Joe, as the defender of the lone source of abundant fresh water in the region, the defacto leader of all three groups? The People Eater and Bullet Farmer certainly came a'running when Joe needed help retrieving his wives. There were obviously other sources of water in the region -- how else did the biker gangs survive? -- so you'd think that Gas Town and the Bullet Farm could have teamed up to squeeze Joe into giving them a better deal or even overthrowing him. Point is, there seemed to be a surprising lack of political friction between the three groups, which seems odd in an environment of scarcity.

5. Surely land was plentiful enough that large solar stills could have generated enough fresh water for people to live on without having to rely on the Citadel for it.

Update: Reddit has a go at answering some of these questions. (via @pavel_lishin)

Mad Max vs. Buster KeatonMay 29 2015

Turns out, if you take Junkie XL's soundtrack to Mad Max: Fury Road and pair it with a train chase scene from Buster Keaton's silent film masterpiece The General, it works pretty well.

Trailer for The End of the TourMay 27 2015

"The more people think you're really great, the bigger the fear of being a fraud is." That's the most resonant line for me from the first trailer for The End of the Tour, the story of a five-day interview between reporter David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace that takes place in 1996, just after Infinite Jest came out.

The movie is based on a book Lipsky published called Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, which I read and thought was great.1 Jesse Eisenberg plays Lipsky and Jason Segel does as much justice to Wallace as one could hope for, I think. I am cautiously optimistic that this movie might actually be decent or even good. (via @jcormier)

  1. I even took place in a roundtable discussion for Vulture about it.

Dior and IMay 27 2015

Dior and I is a fashion documentary about the first haute couture collection designed by Christian Dior's new artistic director. But from the looks of the trailer, you don't have to know or care about the fashion industry to get something out of watching a group of people accomplish something creative, difficult, and political under extreme time constraints.

The film is playing at select theaters around the US and should be available next month for streaming and digital download. (via russell davies)

Movie intro megamixMay 22 2015

A cleverly constructed mashup of all the major Hollywood studio intros -- MGM's roaring lion, Disney's castle, Paramount's flying stars, Miramax's skyline -- into one mega-intro.

(via @pieratt)

An oral history of Industrial Light and MagicMay 19 2015

Star Wars was a film that literally couldn't be made; the technology required to bring the movie's universe to visual life simply didn't exist.

So George Lucas did what any enterprising young director who was destined to change the movie business would do. He invented a company to invent the technology. Wired's Alex French and Howie Kahn take you inside the magic factory with the untold story of ILM.

America's bias against the common goodMay 19 2015

In The Plot Against Trains, Adam Gopnik muses about how infrastructure in America has become dilapidated in part because we (or at least much of we) believe little good can come from the government.

What an ideology does is give you reasons not to pursue your own apparent rational interest -- and this cuts both ways, including both wealthy people in New York who, out of social conviction, vote for politicians who are more likely to raise their taxes, and poor people in the South who vote for those devoted to cutting taxes on incomes they can never hope to earn. There is no such thing as false consciousness. There are simply beliefs that make us sacrifice one piece of self-evident interest for some other, larger principle.

What we have, uniquely in America, is a political class, and an entire political party, devoted to the idea that any money spent on public goods is money misplaced, not because the state goods might not be good but because they would distract us from the larger principle that no ultimate good can be found in the state. Ride a fast train to Washington today and you'll start thinking about national health insurance tomorrow.

The ideology of individual autonomy is, for good or ill, so powerful that it demands cars where trains would save lives, just as it places assault weapons in private hands, despite the toll they take in human lives. Trains have to be resisted, even if it means more pollution and massive inefficiency and falling ever further behind in the amenities of life -- what Olmsted called our "commonplace civilization."

The way he brings it back to trains at the end is lovely:

A train is a small society, headed somewhere more or less on time, more or less together, more or less sharing the same window, with a common view and a singular destination.

Well, except when you're on that Snowpiercer train. Although in the end (spoiler!), Curtis brought the train's segregated society back to "a common view and a singular destination" by crashing it and killing (almost) everyone on it. Hopefully America isn't headed toward the same end.

Steve Jobs movie trailerMay 18 2015

I have been doing a poor job keeping up with my Steve Jobs-related media. I haven't had a chance to pick up the new Becoming Steve Jobs book yet. And I had no idea that the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic was still in the works, much less that Michael Fassbender is playing Jobs and Danny Boyle is directing. Here's the trailer:

The trailer debuted during last night's series finale of Mad Men, which was possibly the most appropriate venue for it. [Slight spoilers...] Draper always had a Jobs-esque sheen to him, although the final scene showed us that, yes, Don Draper actually would like to sell sugar water for the rest of his life.

Update: A proper trailer has dropped. I don't know how much we'll learn about the actual Steve Jobs from the movie, but it looks like it might be good.

Beyond CluelessMay 13 2015

Beyond Clueless is a full-length documentary movie about teen movies made between the release of Clueless in 1995 and Mean Girls in 2004. A trailer:

The film was financed in part through Kickstarter.

Beyond Clueless will be the first major study -- in any medium -- of the teen movie revolution that occurred in the ten years that separated the releases of Clueless in 1995 and Mean Girls in 2004. Part historical account, part close textual analysis, part audiovisual mood piece and part head-over-heels love letter to the teen genre, the film will examine more than two hundred films released during this decade-long idyll, in terms of their characters, themes and what they had to say for themselves.

According to the Art of the Title, who did an interview with the filmmakers about the opening title sequence, the is constructed entirely of clips from other movies.

What if all those American teen movies from the '90s and early 2000s took place in the same universe? What if Crash Override and Cher Horowitz and Laura Palmer all went to the same high school? In the cleverly cut opening to director Charlie Lyne's essay film Beyond Clueless, their worlds are brought together in one long hallway of jeers and sneers, smug smiles, and adolescent longing.

Made entirely of clips, Beyond Clueless does with editing for film what the album Endtroducing... did with sampling for music. Shepherded by the voice of Fairuza Balk, the film is a bricolage of footage meticulously collected from over 200 films, weaving together an era of cliques and hierarchies, baggy pants and chokers, beepers and laptops, with a dash of apple pie and occultism.

A short video tribute to the sounds of Star WarsMay 12 2015

Watch all the way to the end for some sounds that didn't make it into the movies.

Star Wars x Star Trek: The Carbonite ManeuverMay 12 2015

From an alternate universe in 1985, a Star Wars crossover with Star Trek that never happened in which Lord Vader has the Genesis Device.

Paging JJ Abrams. Mr. Abrams to the white courtesy phone please. (via @khoi)

All movie trailers are the sameApr 30 2015

The other day, I made a reference to a trailer for a TV series being "a little too trailery for my taste". What I meant was that it too much like every other trailer (in that genre) and didn't show enough of the character of the particular show being advertised. Action movie trailers are perhaps the worse offenders in this regard, as this meta-trailer shows:

BWAAAAAAAAM!!!

Build up to silence, then BAM!

Like I was saying, too trailery. (via devour)

Black Mass trailerApr 27 2015

Black Mass stars Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger, real-life Boston mobster and FBI informant. The trailer is damn good and I'm hoping the rest of the movie lives up to it.

Tomorrowland trailerApr 21 2015

Ok, even though George Clooney's character says "you ain't seen nothing yet" in the trailer, I am cautiously optimistic that Tomorrowland won't actually suck. Brad Bird is directing, for one thing.

Interesting thing about Clooney: even though he's one of the biggest movie stars in the world, aside from Gravity, he's never really had a big summer blockbustery sort of hit. Only six of his films have grossed more than $100 million...compare that with Will Smith or even Matt Damon, both of whom are younger.1 Perhaps Tomorrowland will be Clooney's Pirates of the Caribbean or Bourne.

  1. The list of actors sorted by box office gross is fascinating, btw. The top five: Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman, Samuel L. Jackson, Harrison Ford, and Eddie Murphy, three of whom are black. The first woman on the list is Cameron Diaz at #13 (and then Cate Blanchett at 21, Helena Bonham Carter at 22, Emma Watson at 25, and Julia Roberts at 26). Sorting by average gross isn't working for me, but I scanned through and found the top five (who have been in 6 or more films): Emma Watson (whose movies gross $191.6 million on average), Daniel Radcliffe, Taylor Lautner, Rupert Grint, and Liam Hemsworth.

Make your own Star Wars BB-8 rolling ball droidApr 20 2015

When the first trailer for JJ Abrams' new Star Wars movie came out, we all assumed the rolling ball droid was CGI (and perhaps based on this 2008 xkcd post). Then an actual working model of the droid, called BB-8, showed up on stage at Star Wars Celebration. Minds blew. Industrial design student Christian Poulsen figured out how to make his own version of BB-8 by hacking a Sphero:

Update: It looks like Sphero will be manufacturing an official BB-8 droid toy, which will likely be a massive success.

The Hateful Eight teaser trailerApr 17 2015

This is the teaser trailer for Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, the movie whose script leaked, was cancelled, was planned to be released as a book, and then uncanceled.

Update: I'm getting emails and tweets saying this trailer is fake. And if it is fake, is there a non-fake leaked trailer out there or...?

Update: Just to be clear, this is totally fake and constructed from bits of other movies, etc.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer #2Apr 16 2015

Ok, this one gave me goosebumps. I hope this is good.

Ex Machina soundtrackApr 14 2015

A new listen-while-you-code/write/design favorite.

I really liked the movie. Matt Zoller Seitz's review captured it well.

The Directors Series: Stanley KubrickApr 13 2015

From Cameron Beyl, a three-hour video essay on the films of Stanley Kubrick. The essay splits Kubrick's career into five parts: the early independent features (Fear & Desire, Killer's Kiss, The Killing), the Kirk Douglas years (Paths of Glory, Spartacus), the Peter Sellers comedies (Lolita, Dr. Strangelove), the Master Works (2001, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining), and the final features (Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut).

Beyl has just begun his second extended essay, on David Fincher. (via openculture)

The 100 best films of the decade (so far)Apr 09 2015

From the AV Club, a publication by The Onion, a list of the 100 best films of the decade (so far). Good to see Her, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Tree of Life, and Upstream Color on there, among others.

Modern day VHSApr 07 2015

Modern Day VHS

Someone pretending to be a Parisian hipster who only watches VHS versions of modern shows & movies like Game of Thrones and Interstellar created these VHS covers as an April Fools joke. These are actually pretty great. (via subtraction)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...Apr 02 2015

For the one-year anniversary of Every Frame a Painting, Tony Zhou goes meta and talks about how to structure a video essay, using South Park and Orson Welles' F for Fake.

Happy anniversary EFAP!

The sounds of HollywoodApr 01 2015

A profile of Gregg Barbanell, who is a Hollywood Foley artist responsible for the ambient sounds (walking, clothes rustling, gunshots, etc.) in Breaking Bad, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Walking Dead. The best bits are about how specific sounds are made.

Popular apocalyptic zombie TV series The Walking Dead has no shortage of gore -- and as the show's Foley artist, Barbanell is tasked with creating most of its gruesome "blood and guts" sounds. "They're pulling organs out of bodies, they're slicing heads off, reaching into bodies, pulling out things," says Barbanell, with disgust. "So, we get creative."

For "gushy, squishy sounds" like oozing blood, Barbanell uses chamois (a leather cloth made from the skin of mountain sheep). "You soak it, then lay into it, and it just oozes -- it's something you can control really easily," he says. "And when you put pressure on it, you get these amazing, gory noises." Sometimes, when that extra oompf is needed, he'll go out and buy a whole, raw chicken to stuff the chamois inside of.

For "breaking bones," big, full stocks of celery are employed -- not merely individual stocks, mind you, but HUGE bunches capable of producing layered, complex snaps. "They give you this huge, sinewy stringy sound," adds Barbanell. "It's very effective."

Oh, and his collection of shoes for making different walking sounds, some of which are shown here:

Foley Shoes

I love that Foley is still something done by hand, but sometimes it's a bit too much, less like ambient noise and more like these exaggerated Wordless Musicvideos.

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:

Update: Not that the first trailer was bad or anything, but this new one provides much more of a sense of what the film is about.

I'm going to watch the shit out of this movie.

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.

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