kottke.org posts about movies

The fundamental flaw in Batman v SupermanJul 29 2016

In his latest video, Evan Puschak takes Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder to task for filling his movies with flashy moments instead of scenes that would give the movie more emotional punch.

It's a convincing argument. But before watching this -- and full disclosure: I have not seen Batman v Superman -- I thought he was going to discuss the real flaw in BvS which is very simply: Superman is an invincible man and Batman is a normal guy in a fancy suit. If this were not a movie designed to entertain 14-year-old boys but a real thing happening in an actual world, Superman would just deal with Batman as trivially as you or I might swat a mosquito. And don't get me started on kryptonite and Superman's greater Achilles Heel, his goodness and love of humanity. As a storyteller, how many more interesting ways can you exploit those weaknesses? Superman is the most boring superhero -- a nearly invincible man with very obvious flaws -- and that's why no one can make a contemporary film about him that's any good.

P.S. Actually, Superman's biggest flaw is that he wants to be a writer when he could quite literally do anything else with his time, like fly around or make time go backwards. What an idiot.

A supercut of 400 fourth wall breaking moments in moviesJul 28 2016

I have to admit I didn't watch all 17 minutes of it, but this is a nicely edited compilation of direct narration, looks into the camera, and other self-conscious moments from movies.

50 best sci-fi films of the 21st century (so far)Jul 27 2016

The Playlist lists their picks for the 50 best sci-fi films of this century. Unlike the list of 50 best animated films I posted the other day, there are many movies on this list I haven't seen or even heard of, so I'm eager to dig in. Here are picks 6-2:

6. Her
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
3. Upstream Color
2. Under the Skin

Good choice for #1 too. I really didn't care for Under the Skin. Nice to see some love for Edge of Tomorrow, Sunshine, Donnie Darko, Primer, and Snowpiercer as well. I would also have included Cloud Atlas, which I know not a lot of other people liked but I loved, and the first Hunger Games movie.

View from the camera car during a Jason Bourne car chaseJul 20 2016

Watch the intricate dance of trailing camera car, camera, and stunt car as they each bob and weave through traffic during the filming of the latest Jason Bourne movie in Las Vegas. The relevant scene is at 2:23 in the behind-the-scenes video above. (via @MachinePix)

How film worksJul 20 2016

A short but info-packed explanation about how film works...you know, the actual stuff that snakes its way through movie cameras. (via one perfect shot)

An appreciation of The Darjeeling LimitedJul 19 2016

I am not alone in saying that The Darjeeling Limited is perhaps my least favorite Wes Anderson movie (even though Ebert liked it). But it's Evan Puschak's favorite and he does an admirable job in raising my appreciation for the film.

A tour of the Stanley Kubrick ExhibitionJul 18 2016

The Stanley Kubrick Exhibition is currently showing at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and Adam Savage went to take a look and show us around. Super bummed I haven't seen this in person yet. After SF, it heads off to Mexico City.

The 50 best animated films of the 21st centuryJul 18 2016

The Playlist has decided on their list of the 50 best animated films of the 21st century (so far). Here is 50-46:

50. Brave
49. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
48. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
47. Tokyo Godfathers
46. Frankenweenie

And 5-2:

5. The Triplets of Belleville
4. It's Such a Beautiful Day
3. Up
2. The Incredibles

I'll give you a hint about #1: it is somehow not Wall-E, which didn't even crack the top 10. And come on, Up? The opening of that movie is damn near perfect, but the rest of it is good but not great.

Kylo Ren's outtakes by the AuralnautsJul 16 2016

The Auralnauts are back with their expertly made revisions of Star Wars movies (see also Star Wars Episode II: The Friend Zone) and this time their subject is Kylo Ren from The Force Awakens.

What? What, dude?! Jim, what is up with your friend?

The Po Dameron interrogation scene: I haven't laughed that hard in a loooong time.

How to Smoke a JointJul 14 2016

This is a scene from Miloš Forman's 1971 film, Taking Off, in which a support group of "square" parents meet to try and understand their children who have run away from home. What a great scene. Unfortunately, the entire movie seems quite difficult to find these days. It's not streaming anywhere and this Blu-ray is $45. (via @dunstan)

The historical accuracy of Saving Private RyanJul 14 2016

Saving Private Ryan has been praised for its graphic and intense depiction of World War II, particularly the Normandy landing scene. History Buffs recently analyzed the film for its historical accuracy. How well does the film reflect the events of the actual D-Day landing and aftermath?

The video takes a bit to get going but is really good when it does. For instance, did you know that the Allies used inflatable tanks and Jeeps to make Germany believe Allied forces had strongholds in places they did not? Look at them inflating the tanks and bouncing Jeeps around:

Wes Anderson's Bad DadsJul 11 2016

Bad Dads

Wes Anderson's films are chock full of bad fathers and father figures. Bad Dads, the third book in the Wes Anderson Collection, showcases some of the art from the annual Bad Dads art show (prints!) at the Spoke Art Gallery in San Francisco.

Zero Days, a documentary about cyberwarJul 11 2016

Alex Gibney, the documentary filmmaker who directed the awesome Going Clear (on Scientology) as well as films about Enron and Wikileaks, has a new film out called Zero Days. The film is generally about cyberwarfare and specifically about the Stuxnet virus, which has a particularly cyberpunk sci-fi first paragraph on Wikipedia:

Stuxnet is a malicious computer worm believed to be a jointly built American-Israeli cyber weapon. Although neither state has confirmed this openly, anonymous US officials speaking to The Washington Post claimed the worm was developed during the Obama administration to sabotage Iran's nuclear program with what would seem like a long series of unfortunate accidents.

The movie was funded on Kickstarter and is out in select theaters...but is also available to rent on Amazon right now. Gonna watch this tonight.

Update: Ok, weird. Zero Days was not funded on Kickstarter. The KS film was originally called Zero Day and changed its name to Every Move You Make when the focus of the film changed. Gibney came on as a "Consulting Producer" to Every Move last year so that's where my confusion came in. (thx, ken)

The visual evolution of Steven Spielberg's moviesJul 06 2016

From the films he made as a teenager on up to the recently released BFG, this is a look at the evolution of the films of Steven Spielberg.

I was 20 when Jurassic Park came out and while I really liked it, I didn't think much about who directed it at the time. It certainly didn't remind me much of Raiders of the Lost Ark or ET. I watched it again last night (it's on Netflix) and it is soooooo obviously Spielberg.

How happy is Twitter?Jul 06 2016

Using a 5000-word dictionary of words rated on their happiness, the Hedonometer measures the average happiness on Twitter.

Happy Twitter

Christmas is always the happiest day of the year ("merry", "happy", and "joy" are all pretty positive) while shootings and terrorist attacks are Twitter's saddest events. The recent mass shooting in Orlando seems to be the least happy Twitter has been over the past 7+ years.

The Hedonometer also analyzes the overall happiness of movies based on their scripts. The happiest movie is Sex in the City while the saddest is Omega Man (followed by The Bourne Ultimatum). Somehow, the fourth happiest movie is Lost in Translation, which might be reason for some overall skepticism about the project's sensitivity to context.

The happiness over time of individual movie scripts has been analyzed by the Hedonometer too. Pulp Fiction's happiest moment is when Vincent and Mia go to Jackrabbit Slim's and the low point is "Bring out the Gimp".

Happy Pulp Fiction

The system has analyzed books as well...the low point of the entire Harry Potter series seems to be the event at the end of The Half-Blood Prince.

Update: Grain of salt and all that, but the shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas police officers have pushed the happiness quotient on Twitter lower again so that the two least happy days have both occurred in the past month. There's been a general feeling that 2016 has been a bad year, like George RR Martin is writing it. I wish the data were available for a closer analysis, but if you look at the chart, you can see that Twitter's overall happiness starts to rise around the end of 2012 but starts to fall again right around the beginning of 2016...the effect is quite clear, even just from eyeballing it.

How Ghostbusters became GhostbustersJul 06 2016

In a relatively new video essay about movies, Lessons from the Screenplay, Michael Tucker looks at Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis's original script for Ghostbusters and how the framework it provided, enhanced by the improv skills of the actors, produced a movie better than the script might have indicated at first glance. And oh man, I love the turn-of-the-century Ghostbusters idea. (via one perfect shot)

What's new on Netflix for the July 4th weekend?Jul 02 2016

If you're looking to avoid the family or ocean or grilled meats or fireworks, there are some seriously good movies that have been added to Netflix in the US just in time for the long holiday weekend:

Mean Girls
Beverly Hills Cop
Gladiator
Back to the Future (I II & III)
Deliverance
Lethal Weapon
The Sting

And The Big Short arrives on July 6.

Wreck-It Ralph sequel announcedJul 01 2016

Wreck It Ralph 2

Disney has announced a sequel to Wreck-It Ralph due to come out in 2018. Given that the plot summary is "Ralph's wrecking wreaks havoc on the Web", I guess it's appropriate the announcement took place on Facebook, which has already done its part in wrecking the open web.

Terrence Malick's Voyage of TimeJun 30 2016

Legendary director Terrence Malick is making a documentary about the birth and death of the universe. It looks like a Koyaanisqatsi sort of thing rather than a here's a suburban tableau that's a metaphor for Big Bang and everything that comes after it sort of thing.

Apparently: 1. Malick has been working on this for more than 30 years. 2. Brad Pitt is narrating a 40-minute version that will air exclusively in IMAX. 3. There will also be a feature-length version of the movie narrated by Cate Blanchett. 4. This will either be amazing or sort of, you know, eh.

The definitive oral history of Die HardJun 30 2016

Die Hard

Now available as a Kindle single (71 pages): Die Hard: An Oral History.

In this definitive oral history of "Die Hard," writers, actors, producers, and studio executives reveal behind-the-scenes stories, from the curious origins of the film's title, to the script's evolution from a depressing '70s character study to an optimistic Reagan-era blockbuster, to the seminal negotiations between 20th Century Fox and Willis's then-agent which sent his client's career into the stratosphere, to details of moguls Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver's famously tumultuous relationship while developing some of the '80s most successful franchises.

The Daily Beast has an excerpt on the casting of John McClane.

They went to Arnold [Schwarzenegger]. They went to Sly, who turned it down. They went to Richard Gere-turned it down. They went to James Caan-turned it down. They went to Burt Reynolds, and all of these people rejected it because, remember, this is 1987. You had all these Rambo movies. We've had Commando, Predator, and in the wake of all of these, the hero, they said, was like a pussy. The reaction? "This guy's no hero." Right? In desperation, they went to Bruce Willis.

Zootopia was going to be a much darker movieJun 29 2016

This storyboarded scene from Zootopia shows an early and much darker direction for the plot: the predators need to wear collars that shock them if they get too excited. This reminds me that Woody was a "sarcastic jerk" in the early drafts of Toy Story. Oh, and Lightning McQueen was an asshole in Cars whose redemption the audience didn't completely buy, which Pixar didn't end up fixing.

Update: There's more about how Zootopia's story evolved in Fusion's 45-minute feature about the production of the film. (via @luketonge)

The evolution of Pixar's animation from 1984 to nowJun 28 2016

Watch how far Pixar's skill in animation has come over the past 30+ years, from their initial shorts to the nearly photorealistic animation in last year's The Good Dinosaur to Finding Dory.

It's incredible how dated the original Toy Story looks now. It's going to look positively prehistoric in 20 years and it'll be impossible for anyone who didn't see it at the time to understand how astounding and groundbreaking it was.

Documentary on Dieter RamsJun 22 2016

Gary Hustwit, director of Helvetica and Objectified, is directing a movie on legendary product designer Dieter Rams. Here's the Kickstarter campaign.

This Kickstarter campaign will fund the film and also help to preserve Dieter's incredible design archive for the future. There's a trove of drawings, photographs, and other material spanning Dieter's fifty plus years of work, and it needs to be properly conserved.

To that end, we're working with the Dieter and Ingeborg Rams Foundation to help them catalog, digitize, and save these documents. The public has never seen most of this material, and we intend to share some of these discoveries with our backers during the process of making the film.

Rams' designs have influenced an entire generation of designers, including one Jony Ive from a small company called Apple.

Identity, names, and personal reputation management in Inglourious BasterdsJun 21 2016

The Bear Jew. Hugo Stiglitz. The Jew Hunter. Bridget von Hammersmark. Names, identity, and personal reputation management are important elements in Inglourious Basterds, as they are in all of Tarantino's films (Vincent Vega, our man in Amsterdam; Mr. Pink; The Bride / Beatrix Kiddo / Black Mamba). In this video essay, Drew Morton shows how Tarantino's characters assert their identities over and over again, with varying results.

Science and storytelling in Finding Nemo and Finding DoryJun 16 2016

Adam Summers is a biomechanist who worked as a consultant on fish behavior and anatomy for Pixar's Finding Nemo and its sequel, Finding Dory. How do you figure out where and how to stick to the known science (or sneak it in sideways) in a movie about talking fish? It's not an easy question to answer.

This question is very important for the entertainment industry: does it matter whether you're right, when you're telling a story to entertain? Under some circumstances, I don't think it matters. But with an animated movie about real, living systems, when you use the truth -- their complexity and beauty -- as a springboard for the story, you add a level of gravitas that is vitally important to creating a broad and deep appeal. A young audience is much more sophisticated than you think, and a story informed by a lot of facts alerts them to the presence of real concepts. I got an e-mail from an eight-year-old about Finding Nemo, explaining that characters could not emerge from a whale's blowhole if they were in its mouth, because there is no link between the trachea and the oesophagus.

There are over 100 inaccuracies in Finding Nemo, but Summers says only one is a genuine error. (He doesn't name it, but it might be Mr. Ray, who lists names of classes in his song about aquatic species.) Everything else, from the whale's blowhole to ignoring clownfish's ability to switch between male and female (although what if Marlin does become female, but just never spawns again?) is an intentional gloss or omission for storytelling purposes.

Or aesthetic ones. "The claspers -- external, stick-like sexual organs on sharks -- were cut off Bruce the great white shark," says Summers, "not because of family values, but because he's spherical, and when you add a bunch of sticks to spherical sharks, they look really stupid." Noted.

Summers admits there's also just a lot about the species in Pixar's fish movies that nobody really knows.

They did ask me some questions about the biology of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) that we just don't know the answers to. It's the largest fish in the sea, yet I think there's just one record of a pregnant female, which revealed that they can have more than 300 pups at a time. That's not much to know about the reproductive biology of such an iconic fish.

Space StoryJun 10 2016

Luc Bergeron's Space Story is a mashup of more than 20 movies that take place in space, from Alien to Apollo 13 to 2001 to Star Trek to Moon. Stick with it for a couple minutes...it starts slow but gets going around then.

See also Star Wars x Star Trek: The Carbonite Maneuver.

2001: A Picasso OdysseyJun 09 2016

Bhautik Joshi took 2001: A Space Odyssey and ran it through a "deep neural networks based style transfer" with the paintings of Pablo Picasso.

See also Blade Runner in the style of van Gogh's Starry Night and Alice in a Neural Networks Wonderland.

The best rule-breaking films of all timeJun 08 2016

From Cinefix, a list of 10 movies (plus dozens more runners-up) that broke the rules of filmmaking most effectively by using jump cuts, nonlinear narrative, lack of plot, surrealism, and breaking the fourth wall.

A video essay on video essaysJun 07 2016

Jarrett Fuller examines the video essay, typically used for film criticism (e.g. Every Frame a Painting, F is for Fake), and argues for its use in design criticism. (via @tonyszhou)

A visual comparison of Stanley Kubrick and Wes AndersonJun 07 2016

The films of Wes Anderson and Stanley Kubrick share some interesting visual similarities. Any influence was a one-way street, of course. With the exception of Bottle Rocket, which was cinematically spare compared to his later work, all of Anderson's films were shot after Kubrick finished shooting Eyes Wide Shut.

Super sad supercutJun 06 2016

A collection of super sad moments from movies like The Iron Giant, E.T., Wrath of Khan, Up, and Old Yeller. This'll have you sobbing in 3 minutes or your money back.

The Star Wars prequels predicted our current political momentJun 02 2016

Cass Sunstein, author of the recently published The World According to Star Wars, says that while most people might dislike the three Star Wars prequels, they function well as "a quick guide to current political struggles".

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, paralyzing political divisions threatened democratic governments. Disputes over free trade, and the free movement of people and goods, were a big reason. Stymied by polarization and endless debates, the Senate proved unable to resolve those disputes.

As a result, nationalist sentiments intensified, leading to movements for separation from centralized institutions. People craved a strong leader who would introduce order -- and simultaneously combat growing terrorist threats.

A prominent voice, Anakin Skywalker, insisted, "We need a system where the politicians sit down and discuss the problem, agree what's in the interest of all the people, and then do it." And if they didn't, "they should be made to."

Eventually, something far worse happened. The legislature voted to give "emergency powers" -- essentially unlimited authority -- to the chief executive. An astute observer, Padme Amidala, noted, "So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause."

Well, that was kind of terrifying to read. My ill-feeling peaked at "a democratic body, a senate, not being able to function properly because everybody's squabbling" as a cause of Hitler's rise in Germany. As Sunstein notes, the parallels between that situation and our do-nothing Congress & the authoritarian gentleman currently running for President are obvious and possibly significant.

The 50 greatest films by black directorsJun 02 2016

Slate gathered a panel -- made up of people like film critic Dana Stevens, Selma director Ava DuVernay, and historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. -- to choose The Black Film Canon, the 50 greatest movies by black directors.

We must recognize that even with the financial and systemic odds stacked against them, black filmmakers have long been creating great and riveting stories on screen. The academy's failure may have inspired a memorable hashtag, but that failure is deeply linked to the way nearly all movie fans remember cinematic history. In our never-ending conversation -- or argument -- about which films deserve to be remembered, which films are cultural touchstones, which films defined and advanced the art form, we habitually overlook stories by and about black people.

Included on the list are 12 Years a Slave, Boyz n the Hood, Killer of Sheep, and Do the Right Thing.

All of Star Wars Ep. IV in one infographicJun 01 2016

Star Wars InfographicStar Wars InfographicStar Wars Infographic

Swiss illustrator Martin Panchaud created a massive infographic that tells the entire story of the first Star Wars movie. How massive? It's 465152 pixels long.

This long ribbon reminds the ancient Chinese script rolls that had to be rolled in and rolled out simultaneously in order to be read. I like this stretch between ages, cultures, and technologies.

So cool. The style reminds me a bit of Chris Ware in places.

A supercut of Stanley Kubrick references in The SimpsonsJun 01 2016

There are tons of movie references in The Simpsons, but the show leans more heavily on referencing Stanley Kubrick's films than perhaps any other director. As you can see in the video, there are dozens of references to 2001, Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, and even Eyes Wide Shut sprinkled throughout the series.

The dance number in Ex Machina works well with pretty much any songMay 26 2016

In Ex Machina, Oscar Isaac's Nathan Bateman performs a dance number with one of his AI robots, played by Sonoya Mizuno. It's the scene where I decided I was going to like the movie. Mizuno is a ballerina as well as an actress, but Isaac has no problem keeping up with her as the pair dance to Get Down Saturday Night.

Now, Twitter account @oscardances is showing how you can plug pretty much any song into that scene and the dance still works. Here's Michael Jackson's Thriller:

Intergalactic by the Beastie Boys:

And Oops I Did It Again by Britney Spears:

And there are dozens more here. (via @gavinpurcell)

Hollywood movies: too much fan serviceMay 26 2016

In his latest video, Evan Puschak argues that intertextuality in movies -- you know, fan service: "hey look, that thing you know from the previous thing!" -- is increasingly doing the heavy lifting of creating drama and excitement, resulting in weaker stories.

I loved seeing the Millennium Falcon for the first time in The Force Awakens, the use of the original Jurassic Park vehicles in Jurassic World, and hearing Dumbledore's name in the trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but yeah, those things have to be the cherry on top of good storytelling elements, not the whole sundae.

The 100 greatest American filmsMay 24 2016

In 2015, BBC Culture polled critics around the world and came up with a list of the best 100 American films. The video above offers a visual look at the list. Hitchcock, Kubrick, and Spielberg each have several films on the list. Although many of the films were edited by women, only one was directed by a woman.

Drive 2: The Uber YearsMay 21 2016

In Drive 2, Ryan Gosling trades his robbery getaway driving gig for driving for Uber.

Captain America: Hamilton's Federalists vs. the Jeffersonian RepublicansMay 20 2016

I was just thinking about Hamilton1 and Captain America: Civil War, two of pop culture's current obsessions, and thought, hmm, what if you made a superhero movie about the early years of American democracy? And then I quickly realized that Civil War in some ways echoes the political battle between Hamilton's Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans.

In the film (or at least the first part of it), Tony Stark is a Federalist; he realizes the need for regulation and oversight of the Avengers by the government. Captain America is a Republican; he believes in the rights of the smaller group (states' rights!) and that regulation comes at the cost of essential freedoms. Karen Walsh wrote much more about the parallels between the two.

Captain America: Civil War begins with a focus on the Sokovia Accords. As the Avengers split into two groups, Iron Man and his cronies focus on granting the Accords validity in order to remain a unified front and gain popular trust. Cap and his cohorts determine that sacrificing their freedom to the government allows for errors that overshadow the purpose of their ability to protect the people who most need them.

In essence, Iron Man and his team represent the Federalist belief that a strong central government is essential to aggregating the trust and the will of the people.

Update: Two more takes on the parallels between Hamilton and Captain America: Captain America, Aaron Burr, And The Politics Of Killing Your Friends and Best of Frenemies. (via @Chan_ing)

  1. The play, not the man so much. The play that I'm not going to get a chance to see before [EVENT HAPPENS] without splashing out an impossible amount of cash. Has anyone written a script for entering the Hamilton ticket lottery yet?

4DX tech turns movies into theme park ridesMay 19 2016

Not content with mere 3D, some movie theaters are outfitting themselves with what's being called 4DX technology, which makes going to the movies more like a theme park ride. The chairs can move, vibrate, and tickle, and the system can also generate wind, lightning, snow, and even smells1 from the movie.

With only the best technologies, 4DX motion chairs are equipped with three base movements of heave (move up and down), roll (move left and right) and pitch (tilt backward and forward) which can create an endless expanse of possible combinations to mimic such actions as flying and driving. The skilled team of 4DX editors, "i-Studio", are experts in maximizing the feeling of immersion within every movie without overstepping comfort bounds.

Yes, it actually snows in the theater:

There are only three theaters in the US with this system installed, including the Regal in Union Square, where you can currently catch Batman vs. Superman in 4DX. It'll cost you though. A regular screening of BvS at Union Square is $15.60 per ticket, 3D is $20.10, and 4DX is $28.10.

  1. Just think of what Adam Sandler can do with this feature!

Everything is a Remix: The Force AwakensMay 19 2016

When it came out in December, Star Wars: The Force Awakens made a shed-load of cash, garnered positive reviews from critics and fans alike, but also got dinged for borrowing too much from the previous films, particularly the original. In this edition of Everything is a Remix, Kirby Ferguson considers JJ Abrams' remix settings on The Force Awakens and wonders if the essential elements of such an undertaking (copying, transforming, combining) were properly balanced.

Werner Herzog is teaching an online filmmaking classMay 18 2016

Werner Herzog has made more than 70 films during his career of 50+ years. This summer, Herzog will be teaching an online filmmaking class at Masterclass. The fee for the course is $90 and includes 5 hours of video lessons about documentary and feature filmmaking, a class workbook, and the chance to get your student work critiqued by the man himself. The trailer above offers a little taste of what you'll be getting.

For example, I do not use a storyboard. I think it's an instrument of the cowards.

See also 24 pieces of life advice from Werner Herzog, including "carry bolt cutters everywhere" and "take revenge if need be".

20 best films directed by womenMay 17 2016

Fifty films critics weighed in on their favorite movies directed by women and Fandor tallied the results into a top 20 list.

"How do you know when to cut?"May 12 2016

I think this might be my favorite Every Frame a Painting yet: Tony Zhou explores how a film editor does what she does. Or as he puts it, "how does an editor think and feel?" The point about emotions taking time is especially interesting, as is the accompanying comparison between similar scenes from The Empire Strikes Back and Ant Man.

Emotions take time. When we watch people onscreen, we feel a connection to them. And that's because we have time to watch their faces before they speak and time to watch them afterwards. Editors have to decide, "how much time do I give this emotion?"

A visually rich tribute to the films of Christopher NolanMay 12 2016

Pedro Herrero celebrates The Universe of Christopher Nolan by showcasing the themes, both visual and not, that run through Nolan's films, like manipulating time and space, the malleability of memory and perception, and fear. (via one perfect shot)

The 10 hidden edits in Alfred Hitchcock's RopeMay 11 2016

Rope is a 1948 film by Alfred Hitchcock that appears to be shot in realtime using one unbroken take.1 But since film camera magazines at the time could only hold 10 minutes of film, there are actually ten cuts. Five of these cuts were carefully disguised and the other five occurred every 20 minutes or so during reel changes when the movie was shown at theaters (and which don't appear seamless when you watch the movie all the way through on DVD, etc.). This video shows all ten cuts (spoilers, obviously).

  1. Well, I just now figured out that the title has two meanings: it represents the murder weapon and the unbroken narrative. Clever, Mr. Hitchcock.

Pixar's approach to storytellingMay 10 2016

This video is a quick look at how Pixar thinks about its characters and storytelling. It focuses on one item on this loose list of Pixar's rules for storytelling:

Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.

Tom Hanks is back as Robert Langdon in InfernoMay 09 2016

Robert Langdon is back. The Da Vinci Code's Dan Brown wrote a book about a secret riddle related to Dante's Inferno and Tom Hanks is back to star in the movie version. Oh yes.

Confession: The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons are two of my favorite guilty pleasure movies. Further even more embarrassing confession: my pleasure in The Da Vinci Code is not even guilty...I think it's just a straight-up good action adventure movie. In summary: are you sure you want to trust my movie advice in the future? (via trailer town)

Lovely illustrated Wes Anderson postcardsMay 06 2016

Mark Dingo AndersonMark Dingo AndersonMark Dingo Anderson

Brooklyn-based illustrator and design Mark Dingo made these postcards based on Wes Anderson's films, one for each movie. (via @timothy_schuler)

The cinematic influences of Beyonce's LemonadeMay 02 2016

From Nelson Carvajal, an examination of the visual influences of Beyonce's Lemonade visual album, from Pipilotti Rist to Terrence Malick to David Lynch.

The biggest influence present in Lemonade, is that of the great Terrence Malick. Imagery from his films To The Wonder and The Tree of Life (in particular a standout sequence involving a bedroom underwater) definitely inspired a lot of the overall tone of introspection and spiritual reflection that Beyoncé is striving for here. One of Lemonade's directors, Kahlil Joseph, shot B-roll on Malick's To The Wonder, so the impressionistic style of filmmaking has obviously carried over.

See also What to read after watching Beyoncé's 'Lemonade'.

How to end a movieApr 28 2016

Using 12 Angry Men, Psycho, The Godfather, and Gone Girl as examples, this video shows several different ways to end a movie. And so, spoilers.

SnowdenApr 27 2016

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Edward Snowden in this film directed by Oliver Stone. I was not at all curious about seeing this, but after watching the trailer, I may give it a shot. See also Citizenfour (which was excellent).

The World According to Star WarsApr 26 2016

World According Star Wars

In The World According to Star Wars, Cass Sunstein explores the philosophy and life lessons of Star Wars.

In this fun, erudite and often moving book, Cass R. Sunstein explores the lessons of Star Wars as they relate to childhood, fathers, the Dark Side, rebellion, and redemption. As it turns out, Star Wars also has a lot to teach us about constitutional law, economics, and political uprisings.

Update: Sunstein, who is a professor at Harvard Law School, gave the commencement address last year at Penn Law. He starts off, dryly: "Graduates, faculty, family, friends, our topic today is Star Wars."

(via @EmilyBrenn)

The FounderApr 21 2016

The Founder is about the early years of McDonald's and how Ray Kroc (played by Michael Keaton) came to gain control of the company. The official McDonald's corporate history glosses over the events of the film in a few sentences:

In 1954, he visited a restaurant in San Bernardino, California that had purchased several Multi-mixers. There he found a small but successful restaurant run by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald, and was stunned by the effectiveness of their operation. They produced a limited menu, concentrating on just a few items-burgers, fries and beverages-which allowed them to focus on quality and quick service.

Kroc pitched his vision of creating McDonald's restaurants all over the U.S. to the brothers. In 1955, he founded McDonald's System, Inc., a predecessor of the McDonald's Corporation, and six years later bought the exclusive rights to the McDonald's name. By 1958, McDonald's had sold its 100 millionth hamburger.

Kroc's Wikipedia entry provides more flavor:

The agreement was a handshake with split agreement between the parties because Kroc insisted that he could not show the royalty to the investors he had lined up to capitalize his purchase. At the closing table, Kroc became annoyed that the brothers would not transfer to him the real estate and rights to the original unit. The brothers had told Kroc that they were giving the operation, property and all, to the founding employees. Kroc closed the transaction, then refused to acknowledge the royalty portion of the agreement because it wasn't in writing. The McDonald brothers consistently told Kroc that he could make changes to things like the original blueprint (building codes were different in Illinois than in California), but despite Ray's pleas, the brothers never sent any formal letters which legally allowed the changes in the chain. Kroc also opened a new McDonald's restaurant near the McDonald's (now renamed "The Big M" as they had neglected to retain rights to the name) to force it out of business.

See also some early McDonald's menus.

Pele: Birth of a LegendApr 20 2016

Pele: Birth of a Legend is a biopic about the rise of Pele, the Brazilian footballer. It was written and directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, who also directed The Two Escobars, an excellent 30 for 30 film about Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and Colombian footballer Andres Escobar. (via @ivanski)

The Birth of a NationApr 18 2016

Written, produced, and directed by Nate Parker, The Birth of a Nation is a film about Nat Turner, the man who led a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831. The movie won both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year and will be out in theaters in October.

P.S. If the name of the movie sounds familiar, it was deliberately given the same name as D.W. Griffith's 1915 silent film, which dramatized the formation of the Ku Klux Klan. In an interview, Parker said:

When I endeavored to make this film, I did so with the specific intent of exploring America through the context of identity. So much of the racial injustices we endure today in America are symptomatic of a greater sickness - one we have been systematically conditioned to ignore. From sanitized truths about our forefathers to mis-education regarding this country's dark days of slavery, we have refused to honestly confront the many afflictions of our past. This disease of denial has served as a massive stumbling block on our way to healing from those wounds. Addressing Griffith's Birth of a Nation is one of the many steps necessary in treating this disease. Griffith's film relied heavily on racist propaganda to evoke fear and desperation as a tool to solidify white supremacy as the lifeblood of American sustenance. Not only did this film motivate the massive resurgence of the terror group the Ku Klux Klan and the carnage exacted against people of African descent, it served as the foundation of the film industry we know today.

I've reclaimed this title and re-purposed it as a tool to challenge racism and white supremacy in America, to inspire a riotous disposition toward any and all injustice in this country (and abroad) and to promote the kind of honest confrontation that will galvanize our society toward healing and sustained systemic change.

(via trailer town)

Amazon now offering monthly Prime subscriptionsApr 18 2016

Amazon is now offering the ability to subscribe to Prime and Prime Video monthly rather than just yearly. Prime Video is $8.99/mo (Netflix is going up to $9.99/mo soon) and the full Prime offering is $10.99/mo. A year of Prime is still $99.

In Prime Video, Amazon has built a worthy competitor to Netflix. And it actually might be better at this point. The stable of impressive Netflix originals aside (which Amazon is also doing *cough* Transparent *cough* best show in years), Amazon allows you to rent/buy digital movies not available for free streaming1, provides discounts for subscriptions to Showtime and Starz, and (if you opt for the full Prime) offers free shipping on most stuff in the store (as well as other benefits.) I sub to both services, but if I had to make a choice right now, I'd probably stick with Amazon.

  1. What Amazon should do, to really sweeten the deal (if the movie studios would allow such a thing), is offer Prime-only discounts on renting and buying digital movies and shows. So not only would you get a bunch of free streaming movies, you can rent new-to-video movies, and they're cheaper than at iTunes. That's something that Netflix can't offer right now. I wonder if they'll add a digital video store to their offering to compete?

For the Love of SpockApr 14 2016

For the Love of Spock is a documentary about Leonard Nimoy and the beloved character he played on Star Trek. Nimoy's son Adam is the director, the film was funded with the help of Kickstarter, and is playing at the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend (with special guest appearance by Zachary Quinto).

The inadvertent cinematography of police body camerasApr 14 2016

Body cameras, dashboard cams, and bystander videos all offer different views of police officers doing their jobs, which underscores the importance of perspective in skewing our perceptions of what's happening. For instance, body cams can tend to put you in the shoes of the wearer.

These details were not captured by the police body camera, though, revealing another important point: Body cameras prioritize the officer's point of view.

"When video allows us to look through someone's eyes, we tend to adopt an interpretation that favors that person," Professor Stoughton said, explaining a psychological phenomenon known as "camera perspective bias."

Thanks to Reed for sending me the link and pointing out the connection to how film directors use the camera to tell stories effectively:
The importance of composition in cinematic storytelling
and "What a film director really directs is the audience's attention." What are these law enforcement surveillance cameras inadvertently directing our attention to?

The making of ZootopiaApr 14 2016

From Fusion, a 45-minute documentary about the making of Zootopia.

Fusion spent two years with the production team of Disney's smash hit film. In 'Imagining Zootopia,' you will travel with the team to Africa to explore the animals in their natural habitat and find out how the storytellers and animators dealt with the very real themes of prejudice and bias.

I found this via Khoi Vinh, who writes:

A lot of careful thought went into how to render the emotional truth behind experiencing racism, and the documentary takes a detailed look at the filmmakers grappling with that. However, it also betrays one of the unfortunate truths of the production; the movie is commendably bold about addressing prejudice, but it's evident from watching the documentary that of the five-hundred plus people who contributed to the film, hardly any were non-white, and even fewer were African-American.

For a criticism of Zootopia's racial allegory, read Devin Faraci's A Muddled Mess of Racial Messaging... And Cute Animals.

Charles Dickens, Star Wars, and the genre of serializationApr 13 2016

In a new video, Even Puschak talks about the rise of the serialization genre, from Dickens to Flash Gordon to General Hospital to Star Wars. Now that our entertainment is increasingly serialized, he argues that audiences have a unique opportunity to shape what we watch. (Case in point: the increased importance of non-white and non-male characters in The Force Awakens and Rogue One.)

Further reading: Wired's You Won't Live to See the Final Star Wars Movie, which I've thought about almost every week since I read it.

Everywhere, studio suits are recruiting creatives who can weave characters and story lines into decades-spanning tapestries of prequels, side-quels, TV shows, games, toys, and so on. Brand awareness goes through the roof; audiences get a steady, soothing mainline drip of familiar characters.

Forget the business implications for a moment, though. The shared universe represents something rare in Hollywood: a new idea. It evolved from the narrative techniques not of auteur or blockbuster films but of comic books and TV, and porting that model over isn't easy. It needs different kinds of writers and directors and a different way of looking at the structure of storytelling itself. Marvel prototyped the process; Lucasfilm is trying to industrialize it.

And Puschak recommends Consuming Pleasures by Jennifer Hayward.

Ranging from installment novels, mysteries, and detective fiction of the 1800s to the television and movie series, comics, and advertisements of the twentieth century, serials are loosely linked by what may be called "family resemblances." These traits include intertwined subplots, diverse casts of characters, dramatic plot reversals, suspense, an such narrative devices as long-lost family members and evil twins. Hayward chooses four texts to represent the evolution of serial fiction as a genre and to analyze the peculiar draw that serials have upon their audiences: Dickens's novel Our Mutual Friend, Milton Canif's comic strip Terry and the Pirates, and the soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live. Hayward argues that serial audiences have developed active strategies of consumption, such as collaborative reading and attempts to shape the production process. In this way fans have forced serial producers to acknowledge the power of the audience.

All this makes me realize that I've often thought of kottke.org as a serial. The "family resemblances" amongst all my posts might be difficult to see sometimes, but it's there most of the time. In my mind, at least.

Trailer for Swiss Army ManApr 10 2016

A24. Daniel Radcliffe. Paul Dano. What. The. Hell?!

An Honest LiarApr 08 2016

A few days ago, I watched An Honest Liar, a documentary about the magician and charlatan-debunker The Amazing Randi. I had forgotten that in the 70s and 80s in America, belief in psychics like Uri Geller, faith healers like Peter Popoff, extraterrestrial abductions, and the like was not all that far from the mainstream. Such events and people were covered in newspapers, on the evening news, and featured on talk shows, including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

The media is awash in pieces attempting to explain the success of the Presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Many are puzzled...how could this happen in America!? After watching Randi debunking hoaxes, I'm no longer surprised at Trump's success. Maria Konnikova, author of a recent book on scams and cons, wrote about Trump and con artists for the New Yorker.

A line, thin but perceptible, divides even egregious liars from confidence men. People deceive one another for all sorts of reasons: they might lie to stay out of trouble, for example, or to make themselves seem more interesting, or to urge a business deal toward its consummation. David Maurer, a linguist turned historian of the con, said, "If confidence men operate outside the law, it must be remembered that they are not much further outside than many of our pillars of society who go under names less sinister." Still, there is a meaningful difference between an ordinary liar and a con artist. A grifter takes advantage of a person's confidence for his own specific ends -- ends that are often unknowable to the victim and unrelated to the business at hand. He willfully deceives a mark into handing over his trust under false pretenses. He has a plan. What ultimately sets con artists apart is their intent. To figure out if someone is a con artist, one needs to ask two questions. First, is their deception knowing, malicious, and directed, ultimately, toward their own personal gain? Second, is the con a means to an end unrelated to the substance of the scheme itself?

She doesn't express an opinion on whether Trump is a con artist -- it's difficult to tell without knowing his intent -- but it's clear that like Uri Geller and Peter Popoff, Trump is adept at making people believe what he is saying without a lot of hard evidence. Like The Amazing Randi said in the movie: "no matter how smart or well educated you are, you can be deceived." Hopefully, like Geller, Popoff, and UFOs eventually did, the idea of Trump as a viable candidate for President will soon disappear back into the fringes of American discourse.

Koyaanisqatsi trailer recreated using stock footageApr 08 2016

Koyannistocksi is a shot-by-shot remake of the trailer for Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi using only stock footage.

A testament to Reggio's influence on contemporary motion photography, and the appropriation of his aesthetic by others for commercial means.

(via @waxpancake)

First draft of Boogie Nights script rejectedApr 07 2016

When P.T. Anderson submitted the first draft of his script for Boogie Nights, the studio didn't think too much of it.

Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights is one of my favorite films. I'm glad Anderson stuck with it.

Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryApr 07 2016

The trailer for the first "Star Wars Story" has dropped.1 Rogue One is about how the Rebellion stole the plans for the Death Star before the events of A New Hope. Don't read the comments on YouTube...there's whining about how the protagonist is a woman and the cast is diverse. :(

  1. "A Star Wars Story"...that's a bit of a hamfisted name. Regardless, there are two other "Story" films planned so far that focus on Han Solo (pre-Hope) and Boba Fett (pre-Empire).

An honest trailer for The Force AwakensApr 06 2016

They go hard on the rhymes with A New Hope angle. I LOL'd when they called JJ Abrams "diet Spielberg".

BB-8 will watch Star Wars with youApr 05 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now out on Blu-ray and digital download. If you have Sphero's BB-8 toy, you can have BB-8 watch the movie with you and react to what's going on on-screen. Here's BB-8 reacting to seeing the Millennium Falcon for the first time in the movie:

Hey, quiet in front, #bb8. Some of us are trying to watch #theforceawakens.

A video posted by Chris Taylor (@futurechris) on



That's pretty cute. But I kinda wish it worked for any Star Wars movie. Or any movie period...like a Mystery Science Theater 3000 just with BB-8 reactions. (via nerdist)

Top 100 pre-kill one-linersApr 01 2016

Not sure if you've noticed this, but actors in movies like to say cool things before they kill people. Here are 100 of those one-liners, from "say hello to my little friend" to "happy trails, Hans" to "dodge this".

Documentary on chess champion Magnus CarlsenMar 30 2016

Using behind-the-scenes footage shot over the past decade, Magnus is a feature-length documentary about reigning world chess champion Magnus Carlsen.

From a young age Magnus Carlsen had aspirations of becoming a champion chess player. While many players seek out an intensely rigid environment to hone their skills, Magnus' brilliance shines brightest when surrounded by his loving and supportive family. Through an extensive amount of archival footage and home movies, director Benjamin Ree reveals this young man's unusual and rapid trajectory to the pinnacle of the chess world. This film allows the audience to not only peek inside this isolated community but also witness the maturation of a modern genius.

Dr. Strangelove joins the Criterion CollectionMar 25 2016

Dr Strangelove Criterion

The Criterion Collection is coming out with a Blu-ray version of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Features include a restored 4K digital transfer and a bunch of interviews and short documentaries about the film. Strangelove is one of my top two favorite films of all time. (via df)

Visual evidence that The Force Awakens is an homage to Star WarsMar 25 2016

One of the things that a number of people commented on after seeing The Force Awakens (including me) was that the movie seemed to be a remix or an homage to the original Star Wars.

With The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams did the same thing, but instead of pulling from Flash Gordon and Kurosawa like Lucas did, he pulled from what he grew up with as a kid and in film school...Star Wars and Spielberg. In a way, The Force Awakens is a reboot of the original 1977 Star Wars, similar plot and all. And even if it isn't a true reboot, it sure does rhyme.

Although some of the comparisons are a stretch, this video does a nice job highlighting the visual similarities of the two movies.

Related: Kenji Lopez-Alt took off his food nerd hat for a second and donned his Star Wars nerd hat with this piece at Medium: Rey is a Palpatine.

Wii music turns Koyaanisqatsi jauntyMar 24 2016

In this clip from Koyaanisqatsi, Andy Kelly replaced Philip Glass' score with music from the Wii Shop Channel. As he notes, the movie doesn't seem quite as haunting now. (via @daveg)

Teaser trailer for The Lego Batman MovieMar 24 2016

People seem to like this, but I don't know...I've got a bad feeling about it. Batman in The Lego Movie was cool and all, but is it enough to hang an entire film around? Not that this question isn't totally moot...in 10 years, every movie will feature Lego superheroes.

Update: And now there's a second trailer? Already?

At this rate, we'll be able to cut the whole movie together by the time it comes out next year, just from the trailers.

20 movies scenes before and after CGIMar 23 2016

A quickfire look at scenes from 20 movies (Gravity, The Revenant, Planet of the Apes) that were done with the help of green screens and computer animation. What, no Carol?!

Scientists warn of dramatic climate shift much sooner than expectedMar 22 2016

A new paper by climate scientists, including ex-NASA scientist James Hansen, warns that our climate could dramatically change within decades, not centuries.

Virtually all climate scientists agree with Dr. Hansen and his co-authors that society is not moving fast enough to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, posing grave risks. The basic claim of the paper is that by burning fossil fuels at a prodigious pace and pouring heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, humanity is about to provoke an abrupt climate shift.

Non-linear systems, man. Gradually, then all at once.

Update: Slate's Eric Holthaus has more on the paper and its potential implications.

In addition to the risk of "several meters" of sea level rise this century, which Hansen calls the most important finding, the final version of Hansen's paper gives new emphasis to the possibility that the ocean's heat circulation system may be in the process of shutting down. The circulation shutdown would precede the rapid increase in global sea levels. If the shutdown happens, simultaneous cooling of the waters near Greenland and Antarctica and warming in the tropics and midlatitudes could spawn frequent strong storms on the order of Hurricane Sandy or worse.

If that sounds a lot like the plot of The Day After Tomorrow to you, you're not alone.

Hansen also released a 15-minute video about the paper:

The Phantom Menace Anti-Cheese EditMar 21 2016

This is a fan edit of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace with all of the crappy bits removed and several other scenes reworked. Among the changes:

- Jar Jar is now a useful character instead of an annoying tag-along
- Queen Amidala's voice is pitch-shifted back to her normal pitch
- Midichlorian references removed
- Anakin is edited to be a more deliberate hero instead of an accidental one

Pro tip: the best Star Wars prequel is still Triumph The Insult Comic Dog interviewing people standing in line for Attack of the Clones.

Dire Straits' Walk of Life improves every movieMar 13 2016

It is the assertion of The Walk of Life Project that the Dire Straits song Walk of Life is the perfect thing to play at the end of movies. I have watched more than a dozen of these and they are all great, but I picked Lost in Translation, There Will Be Blood, and Terminator 2 to embed here.

Seven things you didn't know about FargoMar 09 2016

The Coen brothers' Fargo was released 20 years ago and to celebrate, Cinefix has a video about seven things you (probably) didn't know about Fargo. The movie, not the city. There are probably way more than seven things you don't know about Fargo, North Dakota.

Fun fact: I was living in WI near the MN border when Fargo came out and remember all the Minnesotans complaining about the accents. While I won't say the accents were entirely accurate, all you had to do was turn on the MN State hockey tournament on channel 9 and listen to the announcers for a few minutes to confirm that they weren't all that far off. (See also the 2016 Minnesota State High School All Hockey Hair Team. Uff da.)

Top 10 movie plot twists of all timeMar 08 2016

There are spoilers galore in Cinefix's look at the best ever plot twists in movies, sorted into categories including It Was All a Dream, Not Dead, and Unexpectedly Bad.

The movies of Steven Spielberg, summed up in 30 iconic shotsMar 07 2016

From Duel in 1971 to this year's The BFG, Steven Spielberg has made 30 feature-length movies. This short video features one iconic scene from each one in chronological order. Interesting to note that Spielberg has used Janusz Kamiński as his director of photography for every film since Schindler's List, a film that marked a new phase of his career. 1

Some friends were playing a game recently: name your favorite Tom Cruise movie and your least favorite Tom Hanks movie.2 I thought it would be fun to play a similar game with Spielberg standing in for Hanks but I can't really think of who the other director would be... Who is the directorial equivalent of Tom Cruise? Respected, huge box office, but is more sizzle than substance. Michael Bay? James Cameron? Roland Emmerich? One of these guys?

  1. Schindler's List also occurs almost exactly halfway between the beginning of his career and the present, both time-wise and in film count.

  2. Magnolia and The 'Burbs, respectively, although I could be talked into A Few Good Men or Eyes Wide Shut for Cruise and The Money Pit for Hanks.

The importance of character entrances in moviesMar 04 2016

Just by watching how characters are introduced in movies, you can learn who's important, what someone is thinking, the film's theme, or a character's flaws.

Trailer for the new Ghostbusters movieMar 03 2016

Paul Feig is your director; Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones are your Ghostbusters; and NYC is the backdrop. I hope the movie is better than the trailer.

Update: A second trailer is out:

I love the concept, the cast, and the director. I want this to be good. But I'm just not feeling it from these trailers.

First trailer for Finding DoryMar 02 2016

Hmm. I... Hmm. Up until Wall-E, Finding Nemo was my favorite Pixar film. And...I'm not sure about this. (via trailer town)

Oscars book clubMar 01 2016

Not all of them are direct adaptations, but a number of the movies up for Oscars this year were based on books (or otherwise have book versions). We've already talked about The Revenant, The Martian, and The Big Short -- collectively henceforth known, along with The Danish Girl, as The The Media1 -- but I was unaware that Bridge of Spies and Carol were both based on books (Strangers on a Bridge and The Price of Salt, or Carol respectively). As for best picture winner Spotlight, the Boston Globe's investigative team wrote a book about the events that inspired the movie, Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church.

  1. Apologies to The The, whose lack of Googleability likely hasn't helped their popularity.

The Mindblowing Special Effects Used on CarolMar 01 2016

Mad Max, Star Wars, and Ex Machina have gotten all the VX press this year, but the special effects in Carol are off the chain, yo! I had no idea Andy Serkis played Rooney Mara's character in certain heavy VX scenes.

Side-by-side comparisons of movies and their remakesMar 01 2016

A quick three-minute look at how the same scenes were filmed in movies and their remakes. Includes scenes from Oldboy, Psycho, The Ring, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Cape Fear, Planet of the Apes, Carrie, and Solaris.

Loving VincentMar 01 2016

Loving Vincent is an upcoming feature-length film about Vincent van Gogh that is animated in an unusual way: using 12 oil paintings per second. They've trained dozens of painters -- and are looking for more if you're interested -- in the style of van Gogh to illustrate every instant of the film. Here are some of the painters working on the movie:

Loving Vincent

(via colossal)

A story of last wordsFeb 26 2016

From Candice Drouet, a short film called Last Word, a story told with the last words from 129 movies.

The Coen brothers: shot, reverse shotFeb 25 2016

In this installment of Every Frame a Painting, Tony Zhou examines how the Coen brothers shoot characters in their films close up with wide lenses to created empathy and comedy.

Intricate paper dioramas of scenes from Wes Anderson moviesFeb 23 2016

Mar CerdaMar CerdaMar Cerda

Spanish artist Mar Cerdà uses watercolor and paper to create amazingly detailed dioramas, including those made from scenes in Wes Anderson movies. So far, he's done scenes from The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Darjeeling Limited, and The Royal Tenenbaums. (via designboom)

Michael Jackson's prototype of ThrillerFeb 23 2016

When the song that became Thriller was first considered for the album that also became Thriller, it was called Starlight and had totally different lyrics.

We need some starlight starlight sun

There ain't no second chance we got to make it while we can

You need the starlight some starlight sun

I need you by my side you give me starlight starlight tonight yeah

Songwriter Rod Temperton explains:

Originally, when I did my Thriller demo, I called it Starlight. Quincy said to me, 'You managed to come up with a title for the last album, see what you can do for this album.' I said, 'Oh great,' so I went back to the hotel, wrote two or three hundred titles, and came up with the title 'Midnight Man'. The next morning, I woke up, and I just said this word... Something in my head just said, this is the title. You could visualise it on the top of the Billboard charts. You could see the merchandising for this one word, how it jumped off the page as 'Thriller'.

That story reminds me of the scene in the hot tub in Boogie Nights where Eddie Adams chooses his stage name:

I just want a name, I want it so it can cut glass, you know, like razor sharp. When I close my eyes, I see this thing, a sign. I see this name in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline. And this name is so bright and so sharp that the sign -- it just blows up because the name is so powerful ... It says "Dirk Diggler."

Thriller and Dirk Diggler. Both great names. (via @aaroncoleman0)

The backstory of SpotlightFeb 23 2016

In the latest issue of Nextdraft, Dave Pell points to an episode of the Reveal podcast that goes behind the scenes of the investigation into the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal depicted in Spotlight.

Spotlight (one of the key contenders in the Oscar race) is an excellent movie that tells the story of an endangered species in American life: a well-funded, local, investigative reporting team. My friends at Reveal go behind the scenes to provide the backstory on how Boston Globe reporters broke the story of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, and provide a look into the latest developments in what is, sadly, an ongoing story.

Spotlight was one of my favorite 2015 movies.

The rich meaning in The Lord of the Rings orchestral scoreFeb 19 2016

Howard Shore, composer of the orchestral score for The Lord of the Rings, uses leitmotif to help tell the story, in the form of recurring thematic musical phrases that accompany certain actions, places, or characters. For instance, there's a Shire theme that plays when the hobbits are central to the action but which becomes less important as their physical distance from the Shire increases. Wagner famously used leitmotif in his Ring cycle and so did John Williams in Star Wars...Vader's theme is a good example.1

  1. This has me wondering: has anyone done a close "reading" of the music in The Force Awakens? I bet the placement of some of the musical themes give clues as to the Force sensitivity, parentage, and origin of some of the characters that we're wondering about.

Chewy's original Star Wars script from 1976Feb 19 2016

Star Wars Script

Peter Mayhew, who plays Chewbacca in Star Wars, is tweeting out photos of his original Star Wars script from March 1976. As you can see, it was originally called "The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the 'Journal of the Whills'". So catchy...why'd they change it, d'ya think?

Every best visual effects Oscar winnerFeb 18 2016

From as far back as 1927, when the award was for "Best Engineering Effects", here's a list of all the films that have won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Among the winners were Alien (x2), Titanic, Star Wars (x3), Lord of the Rings (x3), Ben Hur, Benjamin Button, Gravity, and The Matrix.

Silicon Cowboys, a documentary film on the history of Compaq ComputerFeb 18 2016

Silicon CowboysSilicon Cowboys is an upcoming documentary about Compaq Computer, one of the first companies to challenge IBM with a compatible computer.

Launched in 1982 by three friends in a Houston diner, Compaq Computer set out to build a portable PC to take on IBM, the world's most powerful tech company. Many had tried cloning the industry leader's code, only to be trounced by IBM and its high-priced lawyers. SILICON COWBOYS explores the remarkable David vs. Goliath story, and eventual demise, of Compaq, an unlikely upstart who altered the future of computing and helped shape the world as we know it today. Directed by Oscar(R)-nominated director Jason Cohen, the film offers a fresh look at the explosive rise of the 1980's PC industry and is a refreshing alternative to the familiar narratives of Jobs, Gates, and Zuckerberg.

There's no trailer yet, but the film is set to debut at SXSW in March. The first season of Halt and Catch Fire had a lot of influences, but the bare-bones story was that of Compaq.

Many reviews mention the similarity of the characters to Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, but the trio of managers from Texas Instruments who left to form Compaq in the early 80s are a much closer fit. The Compaq Portable was the first 100% IBM compatible computer produced.

Left-to-right character movement in moviesFeb 17 2016

In film and video, which way the characters move across the screen affects how the viewers think about those characters. Generally, left-to-right movement is viewed positively while movement the opposite way is viewed more negatively. In the video, they mention a piece Roger Ebert wrote on How to Read a Movie, which is worth a re-read even if you saw it here many years ago.

Star Wars episode VIII is now filmingFeb 15 2016

Huh. Hollywood has invented a new type of movie trailer: the "we just started filming and here's 5 seconds of the film that's basically the last 5 seconds of the previous film" trailer. And whaddya know, idiot bloggers will post it because Star Wars Rey Luke squeeeeeee!!

Movie references in The SimpsonsFeb 11 2016

From Celia Gomez, a supercut of some of the most notable movie references from The Simpsons. The Simpsons came out when I was 16 and while I loved it immediately, the show started making a whole lot more sense after I watched The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Citizen Kane, and Dr. Strangelove in my 20s. Lots of Kubrick in the Simpsons.

The real story of The RevenantFeb 10 2016

Revenant Mountains

From Richard Grant, the real life story of Hugh Glass, who is played by Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. As Grant allows, the story of Glass's life is "a blend of history and mythology" and is only a little less plausible than the events of the movie (and the novel on which the movie is based).

The expedition leader, a terminally luckless man named Andrew Henry, assigned two hunters to travel ahead of the main group. Most historians think that Hugh Glass was not one of them, because these northern plains and mountains were a new environment to him, and other men had more experience hunting here. But Glass was a loner by nature and stubborn as they come, and it seems clear that he was off breaking orders, hunting by himself when he surprised a huge female grizzly bear with cubs.

She might have weighed 500 pounds, even 800 is not inconceivable. He shot her as she charged, but as he surely knew, even a .53 calibre rifle ball was unlikely to stop an enraged grizzly. She ripped his scalp to ribbons with her three-inch claws and shredded his throat. Accounts of the mauling vary slightly, but all agree that Glass was "tore nearly all to peases", as one mountain man later recorded. There were deep lacerations on his back, his face, one leg, his chest and one shoulder and arm. In Michael Punke's book, based on Glass's life, she picks him up in her teeth and shakes him. Most versions of the story have the dead bear, having finally succumbed to the rifle wound, lying on top of the half-dead Glass.

I saw The Revenant two weeks ago and thought it was good but not great. Underwhelmed, I guess I'd say. As usual, Leo was too distracting as himself to fully blend into the rest of the movie...Leo's DiCaprio-ness always breaks the fourth wall for me.

If movies ended when someone said the titleFeb 04 2016

What a great idea. I just wish it were better executed. The weird music they use for the end credits of each movie is too much...it would have been better to just play it straight and let the gag stand by itself. (via cynical-c)

The top 10 closing movie shots of all timeFeb 02 2016

Um, spoilers. Their picks include 2001, Gangs of New York, The 400 Blows, and Inception. I really thought Cache would be on the list.

Trailer for the upcoming Lego + The Force Awakens video gameFeb 02 2016

Lego and Disney are teaming up for a Star Wars: The Force Awakens video game, out this summer. The trailer for it is possibly more fun than the movie was and is well worth watching if you enjoyed The Lego Movie.

Oscar nominated films reimagined as Winnie the Pooh adventuresFeb 02 2016

Twitter user @dilsexia posted the first one with the caption "The Revenant":

Pooh Oscars

Polish blogger Dawid Adamek ran with the idea and created several more Pooh/Oscar mashups:

Pooh OscarsPooh OscarsPooh Oscars

I Hate the Lord of the RingsFeb 01 2016

Remy Porter hates The Lord of the Rings because it feels too much like work, too much like "every crappy enterprise IT project". The tale begins with Gandalf, a legacy systems developer who pushes off important work onto Bilbo, who reluctantly became a developer after becoming proficient at spreadsheet macros. I wasn't expecting too much from this video b/c of the title, but it's a surprisingly entertaining analogy.

Every Oscar Best Picture winner everJan 29 2016

As we gear up for the upcoming Oscars... Ok, let's stop right there. There are a lot of problems with the Oscars, starting with diversity, but I just love movies. And this review of every Best Picture winner is a fun trip through motion picture history.

Oh, and here's a look at all of the films nominated for Oscars this year (not just for Best Picture):

There are lots of movies from the past year I haven't seen yet (The Revenant, Carol, Creed, Anomalisa), but the best 2015 movie I saw was The Big Short. Spotlight and Mad Max were up there as well.

What Errol Morris thinks about Making a MurdererJan 27 2016

Oh, this interview with Errol Morris where he talks about Making a Murderer is so so spot on.

To me, it's a very powerful story, ultimately, not about whether these guys are guilty or innocent -- but it's a very powerful story about a miscarriage of justice.

Yes! If you came out of watching all ten episodes convinced one way or the other whether Avery was innocent, I humbly suggest that you missed the point. And further that you can't actually know...it's a TV show! The tip of the iceberg.

Another thing that I was struck by watching Making a Murderer was the feeling of the inexorable grinding of a machine that is producing, potentially, error.

This was my favorite aspect of the show. A lot of people complained about them showing huge chunks of Avery's and Dassey's trials, saying that it was too boring, but that's the whole thing! The crushing boredom of the justice system just grinds those two men and their whole families into the result that the state wanted all along. It was fascinating and horrifying to watch, like a traffic accident in super slow motion.

If you're asking me, would I sign a petition stating that I believe that Steven Avery is innocent? Well, I don't know. I really don't know from watching Making a Murderer, but there's one thing I do know from watching Making a Murderer -- that neither Brendan Dassey nor Steven Avery received a fair trial, and that that trial should be overturned.

My thoughts exactly. If I had to guess, Dassey is entirely innocent and Avery is maybe guilty, but neither of them should have been convicted on the evidence presented or the procedure followed.

Anyway, read the whole thing...his stories about making The Thin Blue Line are great. And he's making a six-episode true crime show for Netflix? YES!

The first feature film shot entirely with a Prius backup cameraJan 26 2016

Watch these inspiring film pioneers in this behind the scenes look at the first movie shot entirely with a Prius backup camera. (via @kevin2kelly)

The importance of composition in cinematic storytellingJan 26 2016

In this video, Lewis Bond shows how the composition of movie scenes can not only result in beauty, but can reveal relationships and convey meaning.

The ChickeningJan 26 2016

The Chickening is a surreal visual remix of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining done by Nick DenBoer and Davy Force. It mostly defies description, so just watch the first minute or so (after which you won't be able to resist the rest of it). The short film is playing at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

But seriously, WTF was that?! (via @UnlikelyWorlds)

Visual effects breakdown for The MartianJan 26 2016

My main thought in watching these VFX videos for The Martian, Star Wars, and Mad Max is how amazing visual effects are now. The effects folks do their jobs so well now that audiences don't even notice the effects...it's almost boring.

Related: see also how much video game graphics have improved from the beginning of Kobe Bryant's NBA career to now.

Kobe Bryant, Now And Then

Max Mad: Fury Road sped up 12X is still watchableJan 25 2016

Film editor Vashi Nedomansky took five movies whose ASL (average shot length) is under 2 seconds and sped them up by 12 times. You can judge for yourself, but according to Nedomansky, Mad Max: Fury Road is the only one that's still comprehensible at that speed. Huge props to director George Miller and editor Margaret Sixel.

A look at the visual effects in Mad Max: Fury RoadJan 22 2016

Fury Road was by far the prettiest movie I saw in the past year. Lots of practical effects, but every single frame of the film was also digitally altered (mostly color correction). This piece goes way more into detail.

The top 10 opening shots in filmJan 21 2016

I like how Cinefix does these videos. They pick the ten films, but they also mention other films that take similar approaches. In this case, the picks are also more populist than usual, which I appreciate.

That time that Prince ditched Questlove in favor of Finding NemoJan 20 2016

Questlove tells some great stories -- I'm partial to the one about Will Smith's house -- and this story about his attempt to DJ for Prince and how a Pixar movie intervened is top notch.

Harry Potter as a teen comedyJan 20 2016

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince reimagined as a wacky teen comedy. Excellent editing and music choice elevate this above similar efforts.

Product companies were told to exclude Rey from Star Wars related merchandiseJan 20 2016

This is maddening if true: according to an industry insider, vendors making tie-in products for the new Star Wars movie were directed by Disney1 to exclude Rey from Star Wars related merchandise.

In January 2015, a number of toy and merchandise vendors descended on Lucasfilm's Letterman Center in San Francisco. In a series of confidential meetings, the vendors presented their product ideas to tie in with the highly-anticipated new Star Wars film. Representatives presented, pitched, discussed, and agreed upon prototype products. The seeds of the controversies Lucasfilm is facing regarding the marketing and merchandising of The Force Awakens were sown in those meetings, according to the industry insider.

The insider, who was at those meetings, described how initial versions of many of the products presented to Lucasfilm featured Rey prominently. At first, discussions were positive, but as the meetings wore on, one or more individuals raised concerns about the presence of female characters in the Star Wars products. Eventually, the product vendors were specifically directed to exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise, said the insider.

"We know what sells," the industry insider was told. "No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it."

What good does it do our culture if JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy work to make popular movies with progressive characters if the cowards in marketing are not going to follow suit?

Update: Lots of people are sharing this story, and I wanted to highlight and explain the "if true" in the first paragraph. There are good reasons to be skeptical of the article I linked to. It relies completely on a single anonymous source. I have no idea what Sweatpants and Coffee's fact-checking procedures are. There are also many Star Wars related products featuring Rey (like Lego), so clearly the directive to "exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise" was either not issued in such a restrictive manner or was disregarded in some cases.

  1. The article was annoyingly unclear on who was doing the directing, but you have to assume it's Disney. Who else in the room would have the authority to so direct?

Lo and Behold, a film about "the connected world" by Werner HerzogJan 20 2016

Well, holy shit...Werner Herzog has made a film called Lo and Behold about the online world and artificial intelligence.

Lo and Behold traces what Herzog describes as "one of the biggest revolutions we as humans are experiencing," from its most elevating accomplishments to its darkest corners. Featuring original interviews with cyberspace pioneers and prophets such as Elon Musk, Bob Kahn, and world-famous hacker Kevin Mitnick, the film travels through a series of interconnected episodes that reveal the ways in which the online world has transformed how virtually everything in the real world works, from business to education, space travel to healthcare, and the very heart of how we conduct our personal relationships.

From the trailer, it looks amazing. Gotta see this asap.

Update: Here's the official trailer for the film:

Have the monks stopped meditating? They all seem to be tweeting.

It's coming out in theaters and iTunes/Amazon on August 19th. Can't wait!

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