kottke.org posts about movies
In his recent book, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, Chris Taylor tells the story of how avant garde cinema fan George Lucas built one of the biggest movie franchises ever.
How did a few notes scribbled on a legal pad in 1973 by George Lucas, a man who hated writing, turn into a four billion dollar franchise that has quite literally transformed the way we think about entertainment, merchandizing, politics, and even religion? A cultural touchstone and cinematic classic, Star Wars has a cosmic appeal that no other movie franchise has been able to replicate. From Jedi-themed weddings and international storm-trooper legions, to impassioned debates over the digitization of the three Star Wars prequels, to the shockwaves that continue to reverberate from Disney's purchase of the beloved franchise in 2012, the series hasn't stopped inspiring and inciting viewers for almost forty years. Yet surprisingly little is known about its history, its impact -- or where it's headed next.
Jessica Hische and Font Bureau have teamed up to offer the typeface Hische designed for Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. Meet Tilda (great name). Art of the Title interviewed Hische about the typeface last year.
A look at the sound design of Interstellar, including some of the cool rigs they built to record sounds for the movie, including a truck driving through a corn field, sand hitting the outside of a car, and robots walking.
I have not seen the movie yet (Alan Turing biopic starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley) but the Alexandre Desplat soundtrack is worth a listen.
Also available on Spotify or Amazon.
Whoa, how did I miss this? Steve Carell, check. Channing Tatum, check. Mark Ruffalo, check. Based on a true story, check. Positive reviews, check.
Currently on the to-do list: watch every single movie produced by Annapurna Pictures, a production and distribution company founded by Megan Ellison, who is Oracle founder Larry Ellison's daughter. Look at this list of directors they're working with: Kathryn Bigelow, Paul Thomas Anderson, Spike Jonze, David O. Russell, Richard Linklater.
Nora Ephron's movie Julie & Julia is based on a book by Julie Powell about her making every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Some genius took the movie and cut all the Julie parts out of it, leaving just a movie about the life of Julia Child starring Meryl Streep.
Update: Well, that was fast...got taken down already.
Update: Looks like someone did a similar cut three months ago, Julia Sans Julie:
Let's see how long this one lasts. (via ★interesting & @ChadwickSevern)
I am loving these posters for non-existent movie sequels, but the names might be even better. A sampling:
Fight Club: The 2nd Rule
Bigger Trouble in Little China
Spaceballs III: The Search for Spaceballs II
Titanic 2: Above Zero
Prints are available for all of these. (via @cabel)
Kip Thorne is a theoretical physicist who did some of the first serious work on the possibility of travel through wormholes. Several years ago, he resigned as the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics from Caltech in part to make movies. To that end, Thorne acted as Christopher Nolan's science advisor for Interstellar. As a companion to the movie, Thorne wrote a book called The Science of Interstellar.
Yet in The Science of Interstellar, Kip Thorne, the physicist who assisted Nolan on the scientific aspects of Interstellar, shows us that the movie's jaw-dropping events and stunning, never-before-attempted visuals are grounded in real science. Thorne shares his experiences working as the science adviser on the film and then moves on to the science itself. In chapters on wormholes, black holes, interstellar travel, and much more, Thorne's scientific insights -- many of them triggered during the actual scripting and shooting of Interstellar -- describe the physical laws that govern our universe and the truly astounding phenomena that those laws make possible.
Wired has a piece on how Thorne and Nolan worked together on the film. Phil Plait was unimpressed with some of the science in the movie, although he retracted some of his criticism. If you're confused by the science or plot, Slate has a FAQ.
Update: Well, well, the internet's resident Science Movie Curmudgeon Neil deGrasse Tyson actually liked the depiction of science in Interstellar. In particular: "Of the leading characters (all of whom are scientists or engineers) half are women. Just an FYI." (via @thoughtbrain)
Update: What's wrong with "What's Wrong with the Science of Movies About Science?" pieces? Plenty says Matt Singer.
But a movie is not its marketing; regardless of what 'Interstellar''s marketing said, the film itself makes no such assertions about its scientific accuracy. It doesn't open with a disclaimer informing viewers that it's based on true science; in fact, it doesn't open with any sort of disclaimer at all. Nolan never tells us exactly where or when 'Interstellar' is set. It seems like the movie takes place on our Earth in the relatively near future, but that's just a guess. Maybe 'Interstellar' is set a million years after our current civilization ended. Or maybe it's set in an alternate dimension, where the rules of physics as Phil Plait knows them don't strictly apply.
Or maybe 'Interstellar' really is set on our Earth 50 years in the future, and it doesn't matter anyway because 'Interstellar' is a work of fiction. It's particularly strange to see people holding 'Interstellar' up to a high standard of scientific accuracy because the movie is pretty clearly a work of stylized, speculative sci-fi right from the start.
Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) is coming out with a new film in the spring, Chappie. Chappie is a robot who learns how to feel and think for himself. According to Entertainment Weekly, two of the movie's leads are Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord, who play a pair of criminals who robotnap Chappie.
Discussions of AI are particularly hot right now (e.g. see Musk and Bostrom) and filmmakers are using the opportunity to explore AI in film, as in Her, Ex Machina, and now Chappie.
Blomkamp, with his South African roots, puts a discriminatory spin on AI in Chappie, which is consistent with his previous work. If robots can think and feel for themselves, what sorts of rights and freedoms are they due in our society? Because right now, they don't have any...computers and robots do humanity's bidding without any compensation or thought to their well-being. Because that's an absurd concept, right? Who cares how my Macbook Air feels about me using it to write this post? But imagine a future robot that can feel and think as well as (or, likely, much much faster than) a human...what might it think about that? What might it think about being called "it"? What might it decide to do about that? Perhaps superintelligent emotional robots won't have human feelings or motivations, but in some ways that's even scarier.
The whole thing can be scary to think about because so much is unknown. SETI and the hunt for habitable exoplanets are admirable scientific endeavors, but humans have already discovered alien life here on Earth: mechanical computers. Boole, Lovelace, Babbage, von Neumann, and many others contributed to the invention of computing and those machines are now evolving quickly, and hardware and software both are evolving so much faster than our human bodies (hardware) and culture (software) are evolving. Soon enough, perhaps not for 20-30 years still but soon, there will be machines among us that will be, essentially, incredibly advanced alien beings. What will they think of humans? And what will they do about it? Fun to think about now perhaps, but this issue will be increasingly important in the future.
Syfy is doing a 2001: A Space Odyssey sequel miniseries based on Arthur C. Clarke's final book in his four-book Space Odyssey series, 3001: The Final Odyssey. Here's the book's synopsis:
One thousand years after the Jupiter mission to explore the mysterious Monolith had been destroyed, after Dave Bowman was transformed into the Star Child, Frank Poole drifted in space, frozen and forgotten, leaving the supercomputer HAL inoperable. But now Poole has returned to life, awakening in a world far different from the one he left behind -- and just as the Monolith may be stirring once again
Ridley Scott is executive producing and Stuart Beattie (Pirates of the Caribbean, Collateral) will do the heavy adaptational lifting.
A new short episode of Every Frame a Painting, in which Tony Zhou talks about how to show character choice in movies without using dialogue. His main example is Snowpiercer. Spoilers ahoy.
The directorial debut of Alex Garland, screenwriter of Sunshine and 28 Days Later, looks interesting.
Ex Machina is an intense psychological thriller, played out in a love triangle between two men and a beautiful robot girl. It explores big ideas about the nature of consciousness, emotion, sexuality, truth and lies.
From Silence of the Lambs (#1) to To Kill A Mocking Bird (#9) to Blade Runner (#28), these are the 50 best book-to-movie adaptations ever, compiled by Total Film.
Somehow absent is Spike Jonze's Adaptation and I guess 2001 was not technically based on a book, but whatevs. The commenters additionally lament the lack of Requiem for a Dream, Gone with the Wind, The French Connection, Rosemary's Baby, Last of the Mohicans, and The Wizard of Oz.
Tony Zhou's excellent series on filmmaking, Every Frame a Painting, has become a much-watch for me. Here's the latest one, a short look at a single scene from Silence of the Lambs in which Zhou asks: Who Wins the Scene?
From CineFix, their top ten slow motion sequences of all time.
Includes scenes from The Matrix, Hard Boiled, Reservoir Dogs, and The Shining. But no Wes Anderson!?! *burns down internet* (via @DavidGrann)
A short and sweet pixel art tribute to legendary animator and director Hayao Miyazaki.
See also 8-bit Ghibli.
From David Fear at Rolling Stone, an appreciation of the "Genius of Idiocracy", the smartest stupid movie ever made.
This is Judge's vision of the future -- a landscape of staggering vulgarity and franchising run amuck, where Carl's Jr. can take your kids if you can't pay for their "big-ass fries," consumers eat tubs of butter while watching the Masturbation Channel and the President is a porn star/five-time TV wrestling champion. As he mentions in the interview below (jump to the 27-and-a-half mark), Judge was in line at Disneyland with his family when two women, each with kids in strollers, started screaming obscenities at each other. "I [started] thinking, what if the movie 2001, instead of the monolith and everything being pristine and advanced...what if it was The Jerry Springer Show and giant WalMarts?" With basic human intelligence now bred out of existence, the profoundly stupid have inherited the earth and they've turned it into both a giant, poorly run superstore and an Orwellian dystopia sponsored by Olive Garden.
Counterpoint by Matt Novak at Paleofuture: Idiocracy Is a Cruel Movie And You Should Be Ashamed For Liking It.
What's so wrong with this thinking? Unlike other films that satirize the media and the soul-crushing consequences of sensationalized entertainment (my personal favorite being 1951's Ace in the Hole), Idiocracy lays the blame at the feet of an undeserved target (the poor) while implicitly advocating a terrible solution (eugenics). The movie's underlying premise is a fundamentally dangerous and backwards way to understand the world.
If you haven't seen it, decide for yourself and watch the film on Amazon. (via @khoi)
In a local Chicago TV segment from 1980, here's film critic Gene Siskel reviewing The Empire Strikes Back.
Interesting that he spends most of his time commenting on the special effects. At the time of this review, Siskel had been doing a show with Roger Ebert called Sneak Previews, but they seemed to have missed reviewing the original Star Wars or Empire on the show. Ebert reviewed Empire in 1997, giving it four stars and calling it "the best of the three Star Wars films".
"The Empire Strikes Back" is the best of three Star Wars films, and the most thought-provoking. After the space opera cheerfulness of the original film, this one plunges into darkness and even despair, and surrenders more completely to the underlying mystery of the story. It is because of the emotions stirred in "Empire" that the entire series takes on a mythic quality that resonates back to the first and ahead to the third. This is the heart.
The film was made in 1980 with full knowledge that "Star Wars" had become the most successful movie of all time. If corners were cut in the first film's budget, no cost was spared in this one: It is a visual extravaganza from beginning to end, one of the most visionary and inventive of all films.
Over at Trivia Happy, Phil Edwards interviewed Ellen Lampl, who designed the logos for Mike Judge's underrated Idiocracy.
Some logos came from the script, while some came from the designers' brainstorming sessions. Brawndo and Carl's Jr. were written, while Lampl made logos for companies like Nastea and Fedexx once the overall look was approved. For Lampl, it was a great release, because "coming from the past constraints of advertising, it was cathartic to have the liberty to be bawdy and irreverent. Making everything ridiculously over-emphasized with bright colors, outlines upon outlines, and exaggerated drop shadows was my personal jab at the world of branding and in-your-face typography."
Tony Zhou of Every Frame a Painting looks at the constraints David Fincher chooses to operate under while shooting a film. For instance, he very rarely uses hand-held cameras.
The last half of the video featuring a breakdown of how some of Fincher's scenes were shot is fascinating.
The soundtrack for David Fincher's adaptation of Gone Girl is out and as with his last two films (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), the music is by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
Whenever the words "Reznor", "Fincher", "Atticus", and "soundtrack" get into a sentence together, you know it's good news for your earholes. (via @arainert)
ps. Speaking of Fincher, he spoke to Disney about directing a Star Wars movie and had an interesting take on the original trilogy:
I always thought of Star Wars as the story of two slaves [C-3PO and R2-D2] who go from owner to owner, witnessing their masters' folly, the ultimate folly of man.
I somehow didn't know or forgot that PT Anderson was doing a movie based on Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice. It turns out he totally is and here's the first trailer:
That looks entirely goofy and good.
In 2011, Steven Soderbergh revealed he'd repeatedly watched Raiders of the Lost Ark in black & white. Now he's released a full-length version of the film in b&w, with no dialogue and an alternate soundtrack (Reznor and Ross's score to The Social Network) so that you can focus on how the film is constructed visually.
So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot -- whether short or long -- held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I've removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I'm not saying I'm like, ALLOWED to do this, I'm just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are -- that's high level visual math shit).
The Shawshank Redemption came out 20 years ago and promptly bombed. Now it's one of the most popular movies of all time. Here's how it came to be made.
Filming on location is often something to be endured, and Shawshank's schedule was particularly brutal: workdays were 15 to 18 hours, six days a week, over three humid months inside the former Ohio State Reformatory, in Mansfield, and on nearby constructed sets, which included the huge cellblock. "We were lucky to have Sundays off," says Darabont.
A bakery in Mansfield now sells Bundt-cake replicas of the Gothic prison, which these days is a tourist attraction that draws Shawshank pilgrims. But in 1993 the defunct penitentiary-closed three years earlier for inhumane living conditions-"was a very bleak place," according to Darabont. Robbins adds, "You could feel the pain. It was the pain of thousands of people." The production employed former inmates who shared personal stories similar to those in Shawshank's script, "in terms of the violence of the guards and throwing people off the top of cellblocks," says Deakins.
Robbins remembers "going to that place inside for three months. It was never depressing, because Andy had this hope inside. But it was, at times, dark because of the situations that the character goes through." Deakins confirms that working on the film was "a very intense situation. Sometimes the performances really affected me while I was shooting it." The scene that gave Deakins "a tingle down the spine" is also Robbins's favorite: the prisoners drinking beer on the sunny license-plate-factory roof. Coming more than a half an hour into the movie-and two years into Andy's sentence-it's the first bright spot in a film heretofore gray in palette and tone. Andy risks being thrown off the roof by Captain Hadley in order to procure a few "suds" for his fellow prisoners-a moment when the character shifts from victim to burgeoning legend. That Andy himself doesn't drink is beside the point.
The scene was shot over a "hard, hard day," says Freeman. "We were actually tarring that roof. And tar doesn't stay hot and viscous long. It tends to dry and harden, so you're really working. For the different setups you had to keep doing it over and over and over and over and over."
I was one of the few who saw Shawshank in the theater (I watched at least two or three movies a week back in those days) and loved it immediately. (via @aaroncoleman0)
Amidala friendzones Anakin, Obi-Wan hunts for drugs, and Jango Fett pumps the bass in this hilarious Auralnauts reimagining of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.
You may have also seen their recent video of the Throne Room scene at the end of Star Wars without John Williams' score (reminiscent of these musicless musicvideos) or Bane's outtakes from The Dark Knight Rises. Still champion though: bad lip reading of NFL players. (via @aaroncoleman0)
Actor Cary Elwes (Westley, The Dread Pirate Roberts) has written a book about the making of the Princess Bride, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.
From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.
The Princess Bride isn't currently streaming on Netflix, but you can rent it from Amazon.
David Gelb, the director of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, is going to be doing a six-part documentary series for Netflix about "culinary artists".
Chefs featured in the docu-series are: Ben Shewry (of Attica Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia), Magnus Nilsson (Fäviken in Järpen Sweden), Francis Mallmann (El Restaurante Patagonia Sur in Buenos Aires, Argentina), Niki Nakayama (N/Naka Restaurant in Los Angeles), Dan Barber (Blue Hill in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.) and Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy).
Sounds a lot like a Jiro Dreams series. Looking forward to it. (via @MattH)
Erik Vance on why real working archaeologists don't care for Indiana Jones.
"Oh God," he groans, "Don't even go there. Indiana Jones is not an archeologist."
It's not surprising that academics -- hell bent on taking the fun out of everything -- would hate our beloved and iconic movie version of them. But Canuto is no killjoy. His ironic tone and acerbic wit seem honed by long boring days in the sun. So I bite. I quickly learn that there's a good reason why most every archeologist on Earth hates Indy. And that they might have a point. Because Jones isn't an archeologist at all.
"That first scene, where he's in the temple and he's replacing that statue with a bag of sand -- that's what looters do," Canuto says, grinning. "[The temple builders] are using these amazing mechanisms of engineering and all he wants to do is steal the stupid gold statue."
Makes you wonder if Jones was one of the Raiders referred to in the title of the first movie. (via @riondotnu)
From Cinefix, the 100 most iconic shots in film.
Skews heavily toward pop culture favorites, but still worth a look. Here's a video with annotations of each scene. (via digg)
A compilation of some of the vehicles used in Wes Anderson's movies, shot from the first-person POV.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her autobiography, Pioneer Girl, in the early 1930s. The book was deemed unsuitable for publication, but Wilder reworked her story into the successful Little House on the Prairie series for children.
Now the South Dakota Historical Society is publishing an annotated version of Pioneer Girl, which includes stories from Wilder's childhood that didn't make it into the kids' books. And for good reason.
It contains stories omitted from her novels, tales that Wilder herself felt "would not be appropriate" for children, such as her family's sojourn in the town of Burr Oak, where she once saw a man became so drunk that, when he lit a cigar, the whisky fumes on his breath ignited and killed him instantly. In another recollection, a shopkeeper drags his wife around by her hair, pours kerosene on the floor of his house, and sets their bedroom on fire.
Wilder's memoir also paints a different picture of her father, Charles Ingalls, known in the novels as Pa. Although the real man's character is essentially the same as the version in the novels - affectionate, musical and restless to move on through America's frontier - he is, said the book's publisher, the South Dakota Historical Society Press, clearly "romanticised and idealised". In Wilder's autobiography, he is described sneaking his family out of town in the middle of the night after failing to negotiate the rent with the landlord, justifying the flit by calling the man a "rich old skinflint".
Earlier this year, there was an open casting call for the role of Laura in a new movie version of Little House on the Prairie. Maybe the drunken self-immolation will make it into this one!
That's the somewhat unusual name of a feature-length documentary about world-class stone skippers. Here's the trailer:
I love skipping stones. When I see flat water and flat rocks, I can't not do it. They have to change that name though. They were likely going for "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" but really missed the mark. Oh, and they're raising funds on Kickstarter to finish the film.
The zen art of stone skipping meets the competitive nature of mankind in this feature-length documentary. Set in the world of professional stone skipping, this film will examine the competitive nature of mankind. World Records will be tested, rivalries will fester, and a sport will rise from the ashes of obscurity.
A short appreciation of the Steadicam and its inventor, Garrett Brown. (Brown also invented the football SkyCam.) Features footage from Rocky, Return of the Jedi, and The Shining.
The Steadicam was first used in the Best Picture-nominated Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory (1976), debuting with a shot that compounded the Steadicam's innovation: cinematographer Haskell Wexler had Brown start the shot on a fully elevated platform crane which jibbed down, and when it reached the ground, Brown stepped off and walked the camera through the set. This technically audacious and previously impossible shot created considerable interest in how it had been accomplished, and impressed the Academy enough for Wexler to win the Oscar for Best Cinematography that year. It was then used in extensive running and chase scenes on the streets of New York City in Marathon Man (1976), which was actually released two months before Bound for Glory. It landed a notable third credit in Avildsen's Best Picture-winning Rocky (1976), where it was an integral part of the film's Philadelphia street jogging/training sequences and the run up the Art Museum's flight of stairs, as well as the fight scenes (where it can even be plainly seen in operation at the ringside during some wide shots of the final fight). Garrett Brown was the Steadicam operator on all of these.
The Shining (1980) pushed Brown's innovations even further, when director Stanley Kubrick requested that the camera shoot from barely above the floor. This prompted the innovation of a "low mode" bracket to mount the top of a camera to the bottom of an inverted post, which substantially increased the creative angles of the system, which previously could not go much lower than the operator's waist height. This low-mode concept remains the most important extension to the system since its inception.
Update: Here's Brown talking about the Steadicam and his career. And here's Stanley Kubrick's introduction to the Steadicam, via a letter from a colleague. (via @poritsky & @LettersOfNote)
Automata is a film directed by Gabe Ibáñez in which robots become sentient and...do something. Not sure what...I hope it's not revolt and try to take over the world because zzzz... But this movie looks good so here's hoping.
Jacq Vaucan, an insurance agent of ROC robotics corporation, routinely investigates the case of manipulating a robot. What he discovers will have profound consequences for the future of humanity.
Automata will be available in theaters and VOD on Oct 10. (via devour)
When Alex Belth was 25 years old, he worked with Joel and Ethan Coen on The Big Lebowski, first as a personal assistant and then as an assistant editor. He recently published a short Kindle book about the experience.
The Dudes Abide is the first behind-the-scenes account of the making of a Coen Brothers movie, and offers an intimate, first-hand narrative of the making of The Big Lebowski -- including never-before-revealed details about the making of the film, and insight into the inner workings of the Coen Brothers' genius.
An excerpt of the book was published on Deadspin.
Joel told Goodman about re-recording dialogue for the profanity-free television version of Fargo. They rewrote the line, "I'm fucking hungry now" to "I'm full of hungry now."
"Why didn't we write it like that originally?" said Joel. "It's funnier."
Goodman said, "Who else is coming on this show?" (In Los Angeles, movie people call a movie a "show.")
There was Steve Buscemi as Donny, Julianne Moore as Maude, Jon Polito as Da Fino.
Joel said, "Our friend Luis, who was an assistant film editor on Hudsucker, will be playing the enraged Mexican."
"Yeah, you'll like Luis," Ethan said in a creaky voice. "He makes a big statement."
"Turturro is coming in to play the pederast," Joel said. "He said he'd do his best F. Murray Abraham."
From Tony Zhou, A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film.
Michele Tepper wrote about Sherlock's display of texts in 2011.
The rise of instant messaging, and even more, the SMS, has added another layer of difficulty; I'm convinced that the reason so many TV characters have iPhones is not just that Hollywood thinks they're cool, but also because the big crisp screen is so darn easy to read. Still, the cut to that little black metal rectangle is a narrative momentum killer. What's a director trying to make a ripping good adventure yarn to do?
The solution is deceptively simple: instead of cutting to the character's screen, Sherlock takes over the viewer's screen.
And just today, a trailer for Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children, which movie seems to consist entirely of texting and social media interaction:
A remastered copy of the original 1977 Han-shoots-first version of Star Wars is out there and you can watch it but it's probably illegal. But Disney is never going to show it to you, so maybe it's ok to find it on Bittorrent?
The Despecialized Edition is the years-long work of a diverse group of people who have taken elements from many different sources and created the ultimate version of the first Star Wars film. It has also been upgraded to display properly on high definition screens, with high-quality sounds and a near perfect image.
The latest Blu-Ray release of the film serves as the skeleton for this edition, but elements of the 2006 bonus DVD that included the unaltered version of the film was also used to remove special effects and edits that were added by Lucas.
Here's a short feature on the video sources used:
And here's how to get the full film.
The mixtape that Star-Lord carries around in Guardians of the Galaxy is of course available as an actual album (Amazon mp3, iTunes). The album isn't on Rdio, but William Goodman cobbled together a playlist of all the songs:
As Slate notes, the movie merch album isn't totally true to the movie as it includes two songs from Awesome Mix Vol. 2, but I will never complain of Marvin Gaye's or the Jackson 5's inclusion in anything.
Update: And here's a playlist on Spotify, courtesy of Casey Johnston.
Here's the trailer for the third and final movie in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy:
The Hobbit was initially supposed to be just two films but Jackson decided to split the second film into two. From Wikipedia:
According to Jackson, the third film would contain the Battle of the Five Armies and make extensive use of the appendices that Tolkien wrote to expand the story of Middle-Earth (published in the back of The Return of the King).
The second movie was better than the first so I'm looking forward to this one. But then again, I'm totally in the tank for Jackson's take on Middle Earth (I did the Weta Digital tour when I was in New Zealand) so I would see it even if the first two movies sucked.
So, a few months ago Quentin Tarantino scrapped plans to make what was supposed to be his next film, The Hateful Eight, after the script leaked. Which struck me as weird and petty, but Hollywood in general seems weird and petty to me. Turns out that Tarantino's gonna do the movie after all.
During the Comic-Con panel, one of the audience members point blank asked Tarantino if he'll be making the script as his next feature, following recent word that it could be heating back up again. Tarantino hemmed and hawed for a bit -- before finally committing: "Yeah -- We're going to be doing The Hateful Eight." So there you have it: The Hateful Eight will be the next Quentin Tarantino feature.
The photo at the top is the first official poster for the film.
Actor Robin Williams was found dead in his home today of an apparent suicide. He was 63. I have been thinking a lot about this scene from Dead Poets Society lately:
From James Marsh, the director of the excellent Man on Wire, a biopic of physicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane. Here's the first trailer:
The film is based on a book by Jane Hawking, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.
In this compelling memoir, his first wife, Jane Hawking, relates the inside story of their extraordinary marriage. As Stephen's academic renown soared, his body was collapsing under the assaults of motor neurone disease. Jane's candid account of trying to balance his 24-hour care with the needs of their growing family reveals the inner-strength of the author, while the self-evident character and achievements of her husband make for an incredible tale presented with unflinching honesty.
As promising as this looks, the Kanye in me needs to remind you that Errol Morris' A Brief History of Time is the best film about Stephen Hawking of all time. OF ALL TIME.
Sight and Sound polled 340 critics and filmmakers in search of the world's best documentary films. Here are their top 50. From the list, the top five:
A Man with a Movie Camera
Night and Fog
The Thin Blue Line
Unless you went to film school or are a big film nerd, you probably haven't seen (or even heard of) the top choice, A Man with a Movie Camera. Roger Ebert reviewed the film several years ago as part of his Great Movies Collection.
Born in 1896 and coming of age during the Russian Revolution, Vertov considered himself a radical artist in a decade where modernism and surrealism were gaining stature in all the arts. He began by editing official newsreels, which he assembled into montages that must have appeared rather surprising to some audiences, and then started making his own films. He would invent an entirely new style. Perhaps he did. "It stands as a stinging indictment of almost every film made between its release in 1929 and the appearance of Godard's 'Breathless' 30 years later," the critic Neil Young wrote, "and Vertov's dazzling picture seems, today, arguably the fresher of the two." Godard is said to have introduced the "jump cut," but Vertov's film is entirely jump cuts.
If you're curious, the film is available on YouTube in its entirety:
(via open culture)
Christopher Nolan + Matthew McConaughey + space + doomed Earth. Oh man, this is looking like it might actually be great. Or completely suck.
Please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't suck, please don't s (via @aaroncoleman0)
Physicist Andy Howell recently gave a talk about the science of Star Wars and wrote up a summary of it for Ain't It Cool News. Topics covered include binary star systems, droids, the Death Star, and lightsabers:
Of course, we still don't know how to make a lightsaber. One big problem is confining plasma (if that is even what it is), into some tube. But a bigger problem is the amount of energy required. We can actually calculate this from clues in the movies!
In Episode I, Qui-Gon jabs his lightsaber into a door, and melts part of it. That's just basic physics! To melt something, you have to raise its temperature to the melting point, and you can calculate how much energy that takes using the specific heat capacity of a material.
Alarming reports out of Japan are saying that super-animation studio Studio Ghibli is closing!
Just moments ago, Toshio Suzuki, Studio Ghibli producer, announced on the TV show of the MBS Jounetsu Tairiku chain effectively as announced as sources close to the studio, Studio Ghibli will close and production studio anime, leaving himself only as a company that will manage its trademarks. As stated in the program's producer, "the production department of anime will be dismantled," which coincides with the data that we gave in our previous post on this decision had been taken from spring after the poor reception at the box office of Kaguya-hime no Monogatari.
Luckily those reports appear to be overblown and poorly translated. As Kotaku explains, Suzuki's comments were much more speculative in nature:
Suzuki's wording makes it sound like the studio is considering reorganization and regrouping. It could mean that Studio Ghibli decides it won't make anime films anymore. Though it could mean they do keep making anime films. It could mean a lot of things!
Realize that, at the time of writing, no major Japanese newspaper is running this story. Nor did any morning TV shows. Had Studio Ghibli -- a national treasure -- definitively ceased production of films, it would be headline news around the country, as it would be important in both the entertainment and business worlds.
From This Must Be the Place, a lovely short profile of Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, California. Old Town shows silent films with live musical accompaniment. Includes a brief tour of the inner workings of the theater's wind-powered pipe organ from 1925.
The Imitation Game is a historical drama about Alan Turing, focusing on his efforts in breaking the Enigma code during WWII. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing. Here's a trailer:
The first season of a new series based on 12 Monkeys (and La Jetée) is set to debut on Syfy in January; here's the trailer:
(via the verge)
This is a lie, but I got dozens of emails today asking, "Jason, what movie should I watch tonight?" Whoa, slow down everyone, I've got just the thing: Snowpiercer. It's a Korean film from 2013 that's just now trickling into the consciousness of the rest of the world (c.f. this Grantland piece). The film takes place entirely on a train carrying the last remaining humans speeding forever around a frozen Earth (caused by an overenthusiastic response to climate change) and director Bong Joon-ho takes full advantage of this confined and linear setting. Plus, Tilda Swinton as a Terry Gilliam-ified Maggie Thatcher is worth the price of admission alone.
Snowpiercer is out in ~350 theaters in the US, so if you're not in a major metropolitan area, it might be a little hard to catch. But the movie is also available digitally at Amazon and iTunes.
In the same vein as the Zinn/Chomsky Lord of the Rings commentary is A People's History of Tattooine, a Twitter conversation that Jacob Harris kicks off thusly:
What if Mos Eisley wasn't really that wretched and it was just Obi Wan being racist again?
Some other highlights:
"more civilized time?" Check your privilege, Obi Wan
the Tusken People. Raiders presumes some malevolent intent
all I'm saying is that I don't blame the Tusken People for steering clear of the racist, violent and armed old man
like anybody forgets what Luke and his friends did to native womp rat populations at Beggars Canyon Park
There are 46 reviews (and counting) of The Grand Budapest Hotel on TripAdvisor, which is ranked "#1 of 1 hotels in The Republic of Zubrowka".
As an elderly women I was thoroughly delighted by the attention of the staff! Particularly the concierge, what a thoughtful generous man! Wish I could take him home to service me there! I also loved the food and the chocolate treats from mendls. Tip top!
See also Schrute Farms on TripAdvisor and TripAdvisor reviews for the Overlook Hotel. Oh and The Grand Budapest Hotel movie is now available for digital rental. (via @khoi)
This is an old piece from McSweeney's, but it's absolute gold and I can't believe I've been missing it all these years. In it, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn record a DVD commentary for the first Lord of the Rings movie. So, so good.
Zinn: You've spoken to me before about Mordor's lack of access to the mineral wealth that the Dwarves control.
Chomsky: If we're going to get into the socio-economic reasons why certain structures develop in certain cultures... it's mainly geographical. We have Orcs in Mordor -- trapped, with no mineral resources -- hemmed in by the Ash Mountains, where the "free peoples" of Middle Earth can put a city, like Osgiliath, and effectively keep the border closed.
Zinn: Don't forget the Black Gate. The Black Gate, which, as Tolkien points out, was built by Gondor. And now we jump to the Orcs chopping down the trees in Isengard.
Chomsky: A terrible thing the Orcs do here, isn't it? They destroy nature. But again, what have we seen, time and time again?
Zinn: The Orcs have no resources. They're desperate.
Chomsky: Desperate people driven to do desperate things.
Zinn: Desperate to compete with the economic powerhouses of Rohan and Gondor.
Chomsky: Who really knows their motive? Maybe this is a means to an end. And while that might not be the best philosophy in the world, it makes the race of Man in no way superior. They're going to great lengths to hold onto their power. Two cultures locked in conflict over power, with one culture clearly suffering a great deal. I think sharing power and resources would have been the wisest approach, but Rohan and Gondor have shown no interest in doing so. Sometimes, revolution must be --
Zinn: Mistakes are often --
Chomsky: Blood must be shed. I forget what Thomas Jefferson --
Here's part two. And the same writers, Jeff Alexander and Tom Bissell, also did one for The Return of the King.
From CineFix, a collection of ten of the most iconic and memorable editing moments in cinematic history.
Narrated by Malcolm McDowell and featuring interviews from many collaborators and colleagues, Lost Kubrick is a short documentary on the films that Stanley Kubrick never finished.
Through interviews and abundant archival materials, this documentary examines these "lost" films in depth to discover what drew Kubrick to these projects, the work he did to prepare them for production, and why they ultimately were abandoned. Some of the unfinished project discussed here are "Napoleon", "The Aryan Papers" and also "A.I" (which we know finally made by Steven Spielberg).
In 1976, 20th Century Fox released a teaser trailer for a little film called Star Wars...aka "the story of a boy, a girl, and a universe".
No James Earl Jones voiceover for Vader, no John Williams score (which wasn't finished until just two months before the film premiered), but those visuals must have impressed.
Here's the first teaser trailer for Empire Strikes Back, which features no film footage at all, just concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie:
And for the sake of completeness, the teaser trailer for Return of the Jedi, which appeared in theaters before Lucas changed the name from Revenge of the Jedi:
The staff and contributors of Dissolve recently listed the 50 greatest summer blockbusters ever. Here's #50-31, #30-11, and the top 10.
Blockbusters have become such an integral part of the way we talk about films that it's hard to believe they haven't always been with us. But while there have always been big movies-lavish productions designed to draw crowds and command repeat business-the blockbuster as we know it has a definite start date: June 20, 1975. That's when Jaws first hit screens in the middle of what was once, in the words of The Financial Times, a "low season" when the "only steady summer dollars came, in the U.S., from drive-in theaters." It's summer, after all; why go to the movies when you could be outside? Jaws changed that. Star Wars cemented that change. And now, the summer-movie season is dominated by the biggest films Hollywood has to offer.
Jaws is the no-surprise #1 but Who Framed Roger Rabbit at #8? Hmm, dunno about that. And leaving Star Wars just off the top 10 is a bold move. My personal top ten would also have included Ghostbusters -- I remember vividly waiting in line in the sweltering heat outside the El Lago theater to see Ghostbusters and just being completely and utterly blown away by it -- and Terminator 2. Oh and Batman. I think I saw that movie half-a-dozen times in the theater and it was just everywhere that summer...the logo, that song by Prince, everything. (via @khoi)
Life Itself, the documentary about Roger Ebert, is now out in theaters. But you can also watch it via various Video On Demand services, including Amazon and iTunes. Here's the trailer to whet yer whistle:
Spanish design firm Atipo made these nifty minimalist movie posters out of card stock. I really like the one for Rear Window:
Martin Scorsese uses silence very effectively in his films. Tony Zhou explains:
(via dot info)
If you took all the fight scenes from Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill movies and turned them into a Double Dragon-esque video game, this is what it would look like:
I missed this news a couple of months ago: Steven Spielberg is going to direct a movie version of Roald Dahl's The BFG.
Renowned film director Steven Spielberg will direct the new adaptation with Melissa Mathison, who last worked with Spielberg on ET, writing the script. Frank Marshall will produce the film and Michael Siegel and John Madden are on board as executive producers.
I can't find any direct evidence, but the way the news is being reported, this seems like it'll be a live-action film and not a Tintin 3-D motion capture affair.
2014 is the first year without a Pixar film since 2005's gap between The Incredibles and Cars. The company has two films planned for 2015 and one of them will hopefully do something about one of my long-standing pet peeves about their movies: the lack of strong women characters. Inside Out takes place inside the brain of a teenaged girl, with her emotions as the main characters.
The film's real protagonist is Joy (voiced by an effervescent Amy Poehler), one of five emotions who steer Riley through life via a control center in her mind that's akin to the bridge from the Starship Enterprise. Joy and her cohorts -- including Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) -- all work together to keep Riley emotionally balanced, and for the first 11 years of her life, the primary influencer is Joy, as evidenced by Riley's sunny demeanor.
But as adolescence sets in, Joy finds her lead role usurped. Suddenly, Sadness wants to pipe in at inappropriate times -- coaxing Riley to cry during her first day at a new school, for instance -- and as the two emotions jostle for control, both of them fall into the deepest reaches of Riley's mind and have to work their way back. Meanwhile, left to their own devices, Fear, Disgust, and Anger collude to transform Riley into a moody preteen.
Holy cow, that sounds great.
Yesterday, I did a round-up of movies, TV, and music available on this weekend in 1984. As a comparison, I thought looking at the same weekend from 1974 would be interesting. Tracking this information down was a little more difficult than with 1984, but I found most of what I needed in the June 23, 1974 edition of the NY Times.
Back in the 1970s (and probably particularly in NYC), movies stayed in theaters a lot longer than they do now. There was no home video market then...you either saw the movie in the theater or you missed it. This is a list of some of the movies available for viewing in theaters that weekend in NYC:
The Sugarland Express
The Great Gatsby
The Sting, Papillon, and The Exorcist had been out since late 1973, The Great Gatsby since March, and The Sugarland Express (Spielberg's directoral debut) and The Conversation since April. Only Parallax View and Chinatown had just opened. Interestingly, the year's top-grossing film, Blazing Saddles, which opened in February, didn't appear anywhere on the movie listing pages of the Times that week.
The top 10 on the Billboard chart for that week were:
Billy, Don't Be A Hero - Bo Donaldson And The Heywoods
You Make Me Feel Brand New - The Stylistics
Sundown - Gordon Lightfoot
The Streak - Ray Stevens
Be Thankful For What You Got - William DeVaughn
Band On The Run - Paul McCartney & Wings
If You Love Me (let Me Know) - Olivia Newton-John
Dancing Machine - Jackson 5
Hollywood Swinging - Kool & The Gang
The Entertainer - Marvin Hamlisch/The Sting
And on TV that weekend, a number of classic shows, all reruns except for 60 Minutes:
Sanford and Son
The Odd Couple
All in the Family
Mary Tyler Moore
BTW, the entire copy of the Sunday Times was fascinating to page through. The ads for cigarettes, hand-held calculators, and color televisions, real estate listings, job openings, book listings, the NY Times Magazine, car ads, etc.
On this weekend 30 years ago, in the summer of 1984, you could stroll into a movie theater and choose between the following films:
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
The Karate Kid
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Plus, Sixteen Candles and Footloose had just closed the weekend before. 1984 was generally a great year for movies. Musically, the following songs were in heavy rotation on the radio and on MTV that weekend:
The Reflex - Duran Duran
Time After Time - Cyndi Lauper
Let's Hear It for the Boy - Deniece Williams
Dancing in the Dark - Bruce Springsteen
Self Control - Laura Branigan
The Heart of Rock & Roll - Huey Lewis
Jump - The Pointer Sisters
When Doves Cry - Prince
Eyes Without a Face - Billy Idol
Borderline - Madonna
On TV that weekend were mostly reruns and movies...networks only showed reruns in the summer back then. The shows airing included:
The Dukes of Hazzard
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Late Night with David Letterman
(via, no foolin', the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man)
Rian Johnson, director of Brick and Looper (both of which I really enjoyed) and one of the best episodes of Breaking Bad, is rumored to be the director of the 8th and 9th episodes of Star Wars.
Johnson will take over the core film franchise, and he'll get started quickly and this will be his preoccupation for quite awhile. Technically, he'll write that second treatment but the intention on both sides is that he direct the two installments.
First Abrams and now this...Disney seems to be doing a much better job shepherding the Star Wars franchise than Lucas did. (via df)
NYC and the Central Park Five have agreed to a $40 million settlement that will bring a years-long civil rights lawsuit to an end.
The five men whose convictions in the brutal 1989 beating and rape of a female jogger in Central Park were later overturned have agreed to a settlement of about $40 million from New York City to resolve a bitterly fought civil rights lawsuit over their arrests and imprisonment in the sensational crime.
The agreement, reached between the city's Law Department and the five plaintiffs, would bring to an end an extraordinary legal battle over a crime that came to symbolize a sense of lawlessness in New York, amid reports of "wilding" youths and a marauding "wolf pack" that set its sights on a 28-year-old investment banker who ran in the park many evenings after work.
Ken Burns made a documentary film about this case in 2012. Highly recommended viewing...and you can watch the whole thing on the PBS web site.
Great short film about how ILM's groundbreaking visual effects came to be used in Jurassic Park.
When Spielberg originally conceived the movie, he was going to use stop-motion dinosaurs. ILM was tasked with providing motion blur to make them look more realistic. But in their spare time, a few engineers made a fully digital T. Rex skeleton and when the producers saw it, they flipped out and scrapped the stop-motion entirely. Fun story.
This summer in London, Secret Cinema will build a replica of the fictional Hill Valley town seen in Back to the Future:
Fabien Riggall, founder of Secret Cinema which has presented more than 40 immersive cinema screening events, said: "We shall play heavily on the innocent dream-like world of 1955 and the nostalgic pre-mobile phone world of 1985. We want the audiences to forget their current world and take an adventure."
The recreation will include a DeLorean "time machine" to shuttle audience members between 1985 and 1955 sections of the town, and an "Enchantment Under the Sea" afterparty. Tickets cost £53.50, or about $90 US.
It's fascinating to watch the Back to the Future movies now not for their nostalgic depiction of the 1950s or jokey guesses at life in 2015, all hoverboards and flying cars, but as a vital document of the 1980s. After all, next year, we'll be as far removed from 1985 as the filmmakers were from 1955. The first film especially fixes that time's preoccupations and possibilities in amber.
Yesterday I posted a video looking at the influence of Akira Kurosawa on Star Wars. Well, Michael Heilemann has posted an amazing feature-length exploration of Star Wars and the films that influenced it.
It's not Heilemann talking about anything...it's a sort of meta-Star Wars comprised of dozens of elements from other films that influenced Lucas in making it. For instance, here's the opening crawl from Forbidden Planet (1956):
Heilemann also includes a crawl from a 1936 Flash Gordan serial. For more, check out Kitbashed, particularly the extensive ebook on Star Wars sources.
This video looks at the influence of Akira Kurosawa and his films (especially The Hidden Fortress) on George Lucas and Star Wars.
How are Samurai films and a car crash responsible for Star Wars? How did World War II affect the global film industry in the 20th century? Why are Jedi called Jedi?? Give us 8 minutes, and we'll explain it all...
Using Edgar Wright as a positive example, Tony Zhou laments the lack of good visual comedy in American comedies and provides examples from Wright's films (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, etc.) to show how it's done properly.
Hot Fuzz is one of my favorite comedies...the scene Zhou shows of the Andys sliding off screen and then quickly back in consistently leaves me in stitches. (via digg)
If you missed it in the theater (like us), The Lego Movie is available to buy on Amazon right now. I mean, you could wait until mid-June for the DVD/Blu-ray, but one of your kids' friends is going to see it this way and come to school and lord it over your kid that he saw THE LEGO MOVIE AT HOME and then your kid is going to feel bad and why would you want that so you should just buck up and watch it already so your kid can have the cool cred at school for once and parlay that into greater social & academic success and then she'll get into Harvard and have a fantastic life. What I'm saying is, watch The Lego Movie now and your child will become President basically. Why wouldn't you want that? Are you history's greatest monster? Ok, I'm calling child services...
The trailer for the documentary about Roger Ebert is out:
Two thumbs up, way up. (thx, david)
Can I get a McConaugheeeeey? The first trailer for Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is out.
io9 called it "thrilling", but I'm gonna give this one a "hmmmmm."
The Wordless Music Orchestra will offer live accompaniment of two screenings of There Will Be Blood in NYC in September. The composer of the film's score, Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, will play a musical instrument called the ondes Martenot as part of the performances.
This fall, the Wordless Music Orchestra will once again collaborate with Jonny Greenwood for the U.S. premiere of There Will Be Blood Live: a full screening and live film score to Paul Thomas Anderson's 2007 masterpiece, which will be projected onto a massive 50' movie screen at the historic and absurdly beautiful United Palace Theatre: the second-largest movie screen in all of New York City.
For these shows, the film's original score -- comprising music by Jonny Greenwood, Arvo Part, and Brahms -- will be conducted by Ryan McAdams, and performed by 50+ members of the Wordless Music Orchestra, including Jonny Greenwood, who will play the ondes martenot part in both performances of his own film score.
Tickets on sale now. See you there? (thx, gabe)
NYCgo has an extensive list of all free movie screenings happening around NYC this summer. Most of them are outdoors. Some highlights:
June 22: Coming to America, Habana Outpost
July 9: Jurassic Park, Museum of Jewish Heritage
July 30: The Princess Bride, Riverside Park
July 31: The Hunt for Red October, flight deck of the Intrepid
August 6: The Big Lebowski, McCarren Park
August 8: Groundhog Day, Hudson River Park at Pier 46
Someone should make an iCal/Google Calendar calendar of these screenings.
Update: Tim made a calendar of all the free movie events. (thx, tim!)
Update: And here's a Twitter account you can follow for summer movie reminders: @nycsummerfilms. (via frank)
This was one of my favorite scenes the film...Russell Crowe's Noah telling his children the creation story, which ends up being half supernatural and half evolution.
Worth watching for the special effects alone.
How to Build a Time Machine is a documentary about two men on separate quests to build their own time machines. Here's a teaser trailer:
Ronald Mallett's reason for his search for a way to travel through time is quite poignant...he shared his story in a book and on an episode of This American Life back in 2007. (via ★interesting)
So, this showed up on Vimeo last night and will likely be pulled soon (so hit that "download" button while you can), but here's the deal. In 2012, actor Topher Grace showed an edit he'd done of episodes I-III of Star Wars to a bunch of friends, trimming the 7 hours of prequels down into 85 action-packed minutes of pure story. This Vimeo edit is longer (2:45) and is "based on the structure conceived by actor Topher Grace", which you can read about here.
Grace's version of the film(s) centers on Anakin's training and friendship with Obi-Wan, and his relationship with Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman). Gone are Trade Federation blockades, the Gungan city, the whole Padmé handmaiden storyline, the explanation of midichlorians, the galactic senate and the boring politics, Anakin's origins (a backstory which never really needed to be seen in the first place), the droid army's attack on Naboo, and Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) appears only briefly for only one line of dialogue, used as a set-up to introduce us to the Queen.
Richard Evans rendered some of the best-known Studio Ghibli characters in pixel art style.
Twee out with more than 9 hours of music from Wes Anderson's movies:
Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise) took 12 years to make his new movie, Boyhood. The star of Boyhood, Ellar Coltrane, was seven years old when filming started, and Linklater returned to the story every year for a few days of shooting to construct a movie about a boy growing from a first-grader to an adult and his changing relationship with his parents.
This looks amazing. What an undertaking.
By Louis Paquet, the opening titles of Forrest Gump if it were directed by Wes Anderson.
It's been suggested that perhaps Johannes Vermeer painted his exacting masterpieces with the help of mirrors and lenses. Tim Jenison learned of these suggestions and started to study the problem.
He was in no rush. His R&D period lasted five years. He went to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. "Looking at their Vermeers," he says, "I had an epiphany" -- the first of several. "The photographic tone is what jumped out at me. Why was Vermeer so realistic? Because he got the values right," meaning the color values. "Vermeer got it right in ways that the eye couldn't see. It looked to me like Vermeer was painting in a way that was impossible. I jumped into studying art."
A recent documentary called Tim's Vermeer (directed by Penn & Teller's Teller) follows Jenison's quest to construct a contraption that allows someone to paint as Vermeer did. Here's a trailer:
Not sure you can find the movie in theaters anymore, but it should be out on DVD/download soon.
Time Out polled more than 100 experts to find the 100 best animated movies. Here's the top 10 (minus the top pick...you'll have to click through for that):
10. Fantastic Mr. Fox
9. The Nightmare Before Christmas
8. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
7. The Iron Giant
5. The Incredibles
4. Toy Story
3. My Neighbor Totoro
2. Spirited Away
I'm delighted to see Fantastic Mr Fox on the list...it's an underrated effort by Wes Anderson that will continue to grow in esteem as the years pass. No Wall-E in the top 10 though? I don't know about that. It clocks in at #36, behind Chicken Run (the least of Aardman's efforts in my mind) and Up, which is maybe my least favorite Pixar film. (via @garymross)
If you have children in your home, you have likely seen the movie Frozen and heard the song Let It Go like 50 billionty times. The movie did great in the US, coming in as the 19th biggest movie ever, but it's done amazingly well overseas: #8 on the alltime list with a $1.1 billion gross.
So it's a no-brainer for Disney to release an album with 50 different versions of Let It Go, sung in languages ranging from Arabic to Icelandic to Romanian to Vietnamese. (via @cabel)
Update: Here's a video of the entire song sung in 25 languages:
(via @waxpancake & @Ilovetoscore)
Your Monday morning needs a soundtrack and Danny Elfman's score for Errol Morris' The Unknown Known is just the thing. Available at Amazon or on iTunes.
Today I learned that Hasbro released a toy based on the talking teddy bear in Kubrick/Spielberg's A.I. W? T? F? And of course it's super creepy:
Noel Murray has the whole story, along with an appreciation of the movie and Spielberg's direction of it.
A.I. in particular still strikes me as a masterpiece. I thought it might be back in 2001; now I'm certain of it. But it isn't any easier to watch in 2014 than it was before my first child was born. Like a lot of Spielberg's films -- even the earlier crowd-pleasers -- A.I. is a pointed critique of human selfishness, and our tendency to assert our will and make bold, world-changing moves, with only passing regard for the long-term consequences. Spielberg carries this theme of misguided self-absorption to child-rearing, implying that parents program their kids to be cute love machines, unable to cope with the harshness of the real world. He also questions whether humankind is nothing but flesh-based technology, which emerged from the primordial ooze (represented in the opening shot of A.I. by a roiling ocean), and has been trained over millennia to respond to stimuli in socially appropriate ways. A.I. blurs the lines between human and mecha frequently, from an early shot of Monica that makes her look exactly like one of Professor Hobby's creations, to the way Martin walks, thanks to mechanical legs.
Errol Morris's latest documentary on Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, just came out in theaters. But it's also available right now to rent/buy on Amazon and iTunes. Here's a trailer if you need convincing.
From a large collection of photos shot on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey, two of my favorites:
Those are a pair of smooth criminals right there.
Holy cow, Aardman is making a Shaun the Sheep Movie! Here's a teaser trailer:
The movie will be out in March 2015 and the plot centers on the sheep going to the big city to retrieve the Farmer. As I wrote last year, Shaun the Sheep is wonderful family entertainment. I wonder how the lack of dialogue will translate to the feature length format? (thx, greg)
Filmmaker IQ has a nice exploration of the history of the movie trailer. And yes, they actually used to play at the end of (i.e. "trail") the film.
Coming into the 1960s, a new generation of star directors began to redefine the trailer - among them was the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. Instead of showing scenes from the movie, Hitchcock, who had become quite well known to audiences from his "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" TV series, cashed in on his celebrity... taking audiences on a tour using his gallows humor style in this trailer for 1960's Pscyho.
The reemergence of Cubism in film and commercial art in the 1960s was not lost on another emerging filmmaker - Stanley Kubrick. Having experimented with fragmented cutting styles in the trailer to 1962's Lolita, Kubrick comes back strong in 1964's "Dr. Strangelove" with a trailer that I consider one of the most bold and brazen pieces of movie advertising ever made.
Now showing at IFC Center in NYC: Finding Vivian Maier. Maier is the Chicago street photographer whose extensive and impressive body of work was recently discovered at an auction. John Maloof bought Maier's work, started posting it to a blog several years ago, did a Kickstarter (one of the first I backed) to fund a documentary about Maier and her photos, and now the film is showing in theaters around the US and Canada.
A Clint Mansell soundtrack for a Darren Aronofsky film? Hell. Yes.
Mansell also did the soundtracks for Moon (my favorite of his, I think) and Requiem for a Dream. The Noah soundtrack is available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon.
Errol Morris' documentary about Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, comes out next month. The trailer:
In the first of a four-part companion series to the movie for the NY Times, Morris explores The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld.
When I first met Donald Rumsfeld in his offices in Washington, D.C., one of the things I said to him was that if we could provide an answer to the American public about why we went to war in Iraq, we would be rendering an important service. He agreed. Unfortunately, after having spent 33 hours over the course of a year interviewing Mr. Rumsfeld, I fear I know less about the origins of the Iraq war than when I started. A question presents itself: How could that be? How could I know less rather than more? Was he hiding something? Or was there really little more than met the eye?
The Unknown Known has been referred to as a sequel of sorts to The Fog of War, but from this it seems more like its opposite. Morris got some substantive and honest answers to important questions from McNamara, whereas it sounds like he got bupkiss from Rumsfeld.
Update: Here's part 2.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson's most design-y film, and that's really saying something. Typography is present in almost every frame; at times, it was almost oppressive. Creative Review interviewed designer Annie Atkins, who was responsible for the film's graphic design elements.
Oh my goodness, so many signs in the 1960s hotel lobby! I have to give credit to Liliana for this work, as she took care of nearly all of these. She had three sign-writers from Berlin painting non-stop for a week to get them all done in time for our first day of shoot, as that set was first up. Wes and Adam had seen so many examples of quite officious signage in what had been communist East Germany -- don't do this, don't do that, do this but only like that! The signs really added to the claustrophobic feeling of that set, and Wes had asked for them all to be black with simple white hand-painted lettering -- based on the style of the old sign at Yorckstrasse subway station in Berlin.
Ed Catmull has written a book about Pixar's creative process: Creativity, Inc.
Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation -- into the meetings, postmortems, and "Braintrust" sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture -- but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, "an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible."
For nearly twenty years, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, and WALL-E, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner thirty Academy Awards. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired -- and so profitable.
Catmull was a founder of Pixar and while he never got the press Jobs and Lasseter did, he was instrumental in the company's success and is currently president of both Disney and Pixar's animation studios. Fast Company has an excerpt of the book.
Candor could not be more crucial to our creative process. Why? Because early on, all of our movies suck. That's a blunt assessment, I know, but I choose that phrasing because saying it in a softer way fails to convey how bad the first versions really are. I'm not trying to be modest or self-effacing. Pixar films are not good at first, and our job is to make them so -- to go, as I say, "from suck to not-suck."
Think about how easy it would be for a movie about talking toys to feel derivative, sappy, or overtly merchandise driven. Think about how off-putting a movie about rats preparing food could be, or how risky it must've seemed to start WALL-E with 39 dialogue-free minutes. We dare to attempt these stories, but we don't get them right on the first pass. This is as it should be. Creativity has to start somewhere, and we are true believers in the power of bracing, candid feedback and the iterative process -- reworking, reworking, and reworking again, until a flawed story finds its through line or a hollow character finds its soul.
Oh hello Grand Budapest Hotel soundtrack on Rdio. Alexandre Desplat. It's a goooood morning.
Also available for download on Amazon or iTunes if that's your thing.
Last year (spoilers!), CERN confirmed the discovery of the Higgs boson. Physicist-turned-filmmaker Mark Levinson has made a film about the search for the so-called God Particle. Particle Fever follows a group of scientists through the process of discovery and the construction of the mega-machine that discovered the Higgs, the Large Hadron Collider. Here's a trailer:
Two additional data points: the movie is holding a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and legendary sound designer and editor Walter Murch edited the film. Particle Fever is showing at Film Forum in New York until March 20. (thx, james)
When Owen Suskind was three, a switch flipped within him and he went from a typical chatty rambunctious three-year-old to autistic.
I had just started a job as The Wall Street Journal's national affairs reporter. My wife, Cornelia, a former journalist, was home with him -- a new story every day, a new horror. He could barely use a sippy cup, though he'd long ago graduated to a big-boy cup. He wove about like someone walking with his eyes shut. "It doesn't make sense," I'd say at night. "You don't grow backward." Had he been injured somehow when he was out of our sight, banged his head, swallowed something poisonous? It was like searching for clues to a kidnapping.
After visits to several doctors, we first heard the word "autism." Later, it would be fine-tuned to "regressive autism," now affecting roughly a third of children with the disorder. Unlike the kids born with it, this group seems typical until somewhere between 18 and 36 months -- then they vanish. Some never get their speech back. Families stop watching those early videos, their child waving to the camera. Too painful. That child's gone.
But a tenuous connection remained between Owen and his pre-autistic self: Disney movies. And through them, Owen slowly learns how to communicate with the outside world again.
So we join him upstairs, all of us, on a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon in November 1994. Owen is already on the bed, oblivious to our arrival, murmuring gibberish.... "Juicervose, juicervose." It is something we've been hearing for the past few weeks. Cornelia thinks maybe he wants more juice; but no, he refuses the sippy cup. "The Little Mermaid" is playing as we settle in, propping up pillows. We've all seen it at least a dozen times, but it's at one of the best parts: where Ursula the sea witch, an acerbic diva, sings her song of villainy, "Poor Unfortunate Souls," to the selfish mermaid, Ariel, setting up the part in which Ursula will turn Ariel into a human, allowing her to seek out the handsome prince, in exchange for her voice.
When the song is over, Owen lifts the remote. Hits rewind.
"Come on, Owen, just let it play!" Walt moans. But Owen goes back just 20 seconds or so, to the song's next-to-last stanza, with Ursula shouting:
Go ahead -- make your choice!
I'm a very busy woman, and I haven't got all day.
It won't cost much, just your voice!
He does it again. Stop. Rewind. Play. And one more time. On the fourth pass, Cornelia whispers, "It's not 'juice.' " I barely hear her. "What?" "It's not 'juice.' It's 'just' ... 'just your voice'!"
I grab Owen by the shoulders. "Just your voice! Is that what you're saying?!"
He looks right at me, our first real eye contact in a year. "Juicervose! Juicervose! Juicervose!"
Walt starts to shout, "Owen's talking again!" A mermaid lost her voice in a moment of transformation. So did this silent boy. "Juicervose! Juicervose! Juicervose!" Owen keeps saying it, watching us shout and cheer. And then we're up, all of us, bouncing on the bed. Owen, too, singing it over and over -- "Juicervose!" -- as Cornelia, tears beginning to fall, whispers softly, "Thank God, he's in there."
This is the best thing I've read in a month, so so heartbreaking and amazing. Just pre-ordered the book...can't wait to read the full version.
Denis Medri illustrates scenes from Star Wars as if Luke, Leia, Han, and the rest of the gang were teenagers in an 80s movie like Back to the Future, Karate Kid, or Breakfast Club.
Great Scott, the Force is strong in these two.
Hold onto yer butts, you can use the computer interface from Jurassic Park right in your web browser.
It may look a little confusing but just remember: this is a Unix system and you know this.
In his own words, Wes Anderson explains different aspects of his visual style.
Nicely edited together by Nelson Carvajal at Way Too Indie.
If you're having Downton Abbey withdrawals, may I suggest Robert Altman's Gosford Park? Written by Downton creator Julian Fellowes, it's a proto-Downton of sorts: lots of upstairs/downstairs with a dash of mystery. And the cast! Clive Owen, Emily Watson, Stephen Fry, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillippe...and Maggie Smith plays a witty countess.
Watch it on Netflix Instant, at Amazon, or on iTunes.
My mind is so tiny these days it doesn't take much to blow it, so grain of salt and all that. But, this theory that Andy's mom in Toy Story is Jessie's original owner is popping my fuse right now.
Several months ago, one of my anonymous Pixar Theory Interns (that's a thing on a resume) came to me with a crazy proposition: Andy's mom is Emily, Jessie's previous owner.
I laughed. I then agreed.
Previously: a grand unified theory of Pixar.
Fine work as usual from Christian Annyas: a look at the design of the Warner Bros logo from 1923 to the present. The classic "WB" shield of my Bugs-and-Daffy-saturated youth will always be a favorite, but I do like the Saul Bass logo of the 70s and early 80s:
Affleck's Argo and Soderbergh's Magic Mike both used the Bass logo in place of the contemporary logo, which is the kind of little detail I love.
Huzzah! Long unavailable (or at least not widely available), Errol Morris' documentary film on Stephen Hawking and his work, A Brief History of Time, is now available for rent or purchase on iTunes. Or if you can wait a little bit, there's a Criterion Blu-ray edition coming out in mid-March. Bonus: score by Philip Glass!
This is called a billing block:
You find it at the bottom of movie posters and often at the end of movie trailers. In an Op-Art piece from last year, Ben Schott explains how the billing block is carefully constructed with information from contracts and legal agreements.
The content, order and format of the billing block are governed by two things: personal service contracts with cast and crew, and industrywide agreements with professional guilds -- notably the Directors Guild of America (D.G.A.) and the Writers Guild of America (W.G.A.). Thus, while some elements of the billing block remain consistent, others depend of the type of film and on individual negotiations. That said, there has been a marked inflation in billing block credits. An "Ocean's 11" poster from 1960 credited just three noncast individuals; the 2001 remake poster credited, coincidentally, 11.
In a lovely short film, Ilinca Calugareanu explores the world of 1980s black market VHS movies in Communist Romania and finds the woman who did all the dubbed dialogue.
All the dialogue on these movies was dubbed into Romanian in a husky, high-pitched woman's voice. Throughout my childhood, these films provided a glimpse into the forbidden West, resplendent with blue jeans, Coke and skyscrapers. As Hollywood movies became ubiquitous through the black market, this voice became one of the most recognizable in Romania. Yet no one knew who she was.
The film is adapted from an upcoming feature-length documentary called Chuck Norris vs Communism. (via df)
Futurist Ray Kurzweil reviews Spike Jonze's Her.
I would place some of the elements in Jonze's depiction at around 2020, give or take a couple of years, such as the diffident and insulting videogame character he interacts with, and the pin-sized cameras that one can place like a freckle on one's face. Other elements seem more like 2014, such as the flat-panel displays, notebooks and mobile devices.
Samantha herself I would place at 2029, when the leap to human-level AI would be reasonably believable. There are some incongruities, however. As I mentioned, a lot of the dramatic tension is provided by the fact that Theodore's love interest does not have a body. But this is an unrealistic notion. It would be technically trivial in the future to provide her a virtual visual presence to match her virtual auditory presence, using, lens-mounted displays, for example, that display images onto Theodore's retinas.
According to Jonze in interviews, Kurzweil's work on the singularity was a definite influence on the movie.
A short video from Gizmodo about how Criterion restores a film for release on DVD/Blu-ray. Watch as the color, contrast, audio, and picture is corrected on Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent.
For his Classic Movies in Miniature Style series, Murat Palta illustrated scenes from movies using traditional Ottoman motifs. Here's A Clockwork Orange and Kill Bill:
Great stuff. (via @pieratt)
Understandably, lots of folks are wanting to wade into the late Philip Seymour Hoffman's formidable body of work. Netflix Watch Instantly doesn't have a whole lot of available titles and Hulu has a mere two, but Amazon has quite a few for rent or purchase. Some of my favorites: The Master, Synecdoche, New York, Almost Famous, Magnolia, and Boogie Nights. I need to find time for a Synecdoche viewing this week.
ps. The links to Amazon include my affiliates code...proceeds from purchases made through those links will be matched by me and will be donated to the Labyrinth Theater Company, which Hoffman co-founded and where he served as creative director for many years.
From a new blog, Typeset in the Future, an examination of the typography in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
It's Futura again, with an M borrowed from Gill Sans, and a W that I don't recognize from anywhere.
From Star Wars to Life of Pi, this is a video compilation of clips from every movie that's won the Best Visual Effects Oscar since the introduction of the award in 1977.
In an interview with an Australian radio station, Arcade Fire's Win Butler said that the music on the Her movie soundtrack will see an official release in some form. Here's what Butler said about it:
We're just slow as a band. The music will get out there, it's just, like, a question of if we want to sell it to people or give to people or record other songs or whatever. There are many pieces on the soundtrack that are kind of based on actual songs that we've never really recorded. Yeah, there's a song called Milk and Honey and a song called Dimensions that are, like, lost great Arcade Fire songs. They are actually just things that, like, fit the world of the movie and then we kind of wrote them to the film.
That's good news! Here's the whole interview (they start talking about Her at 15:40):
According to Spike Jonze, there might not be an official release of the soundtrack for Her (performed by Arcade Fire), but the whole thing is somehow currently on the internet for your listening pleasure:
Update: Win Butler of Arcade Fire now says the Her soundtrack will be released in some form eventually.
Great post by Nick Carr on Scouting New York comparing the movie locations in The Godfather to what they look like today.
Because the film is a period piece, The Godfather actually presents a fascinating record of what 1940s-era New York City locations still existed in the early-1970s. Sadly, many of them are now gone. What still remains? Let's take a closer look.