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kottke.org posts about movies

Teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2017

YAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSS. I will never not be excited for more Star Wars and I don’t care what this says about me as a person.

A touching Star Wars video tribute to Carrie Fisher

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2017

Next month is the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars and at Star Wars Celebration this year, there was a 40 Years of Star Wars panel with George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, and Harrison Ford. At the end of the panel, after some personal thoughts from Lucas and the other panelists about Carrie Fisher, they played this video tribute to Fisher.

Trailer for the latest Thor movie

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 11, 2017

For awhile, I think Hollywood forgot that movies are supposed to be fun. This looks fun, like movies in the 80s were before the studios started fixating too much on boobs and bombs for teen boys, gritty reboots, and save-the-world movies.

The stunning visual effects from Ghost in the Shell

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 11, 2017

From concept designer Ash Thorp, a reel of visual effects he worked on for Ghost in the Shell, from animation tests to completed effects featured in the film.

Early on in the film’s development, I met with Rupert to discuss some of the creative direction. He expressed his desire to paint the city with neon lights in a new form that he coined as “Solograms”, which are solid holograms. It is something in the realm of a particle system of light that can be moved and augmented in Z space. I loved the idea and instantly got to work building out concepts and ideas. Below you will see a mix of various style frames, concepts, and final production assets that made it into the film.

I saw this the other day and the effects are amazing; I wish the story could have been a little better.

Update: For more on the visual effects in Ghost in the Shell, see also this piece in Creative Review and this extensive look from Cinematography Database.

(via @firasd & @holgr)

Kubrick’s original ending of The Shining

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 10, 2017

When The Shining premiered in 1980 in NYC and LA, there was a short scene in a hospital between the shot of Jack Torrence frozen in the maze and the long zoomed-in shot of the framed photo. After the premieres, director Stanley Kubrick decided the scene didn’t work and had it cut from dozens of prints and destroyed.

It’s also important to note that this was likely not the exact scene that Kubrick shot; since the scene no longer exists, it’s impossible to know how exactly it played. Even the many people who saw the epilogue when The Shining was first released have varying recollections of the exact details. Clearly, the final text about the Overlook’s history was an idea omitted during the writing process.

No known copy of the scene remains but you can read it in the screenplay and see brief glimpses in these Polaroids.

An Inconvenient Sequel

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2017

In 2006, Davis Guggenheim directed An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary film about Al Gore’s fight to educate the world about climate change. It made nearly $50 million at the box office, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, and is credited for moving the conversation about climate change along (although not nearly fast enough, in my mind). This July, a followup documentary will be released: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. From a review in the LA Times:

Eleven Sundances later, Gore’s star wattage seemed entirely undimmed at Thursday evening’s premiere of “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” an awkwardly titled, stirringly crafted follow-up that measures the progress that has and hasn’t been made in the battle against global warming. Taking over for Davis Guggenheim, the directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk largely abandon the framing device of Gore’s lecture (which he and his international team of trainees continue to give regularly) in favor of a nimbler, more on-the-go approach.

Despite some updates on the continuing decline of the world’s glaciers and the link between climate change and the recent Zika virus outbreak, the focus this time is less on science than on politicking. Cohen and Shenk tag along with Gore on a globe-trotting mission to persuade various heads of state to invest in wind and solar energy, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels — an effort that culminates on-screen with the signing of last year’s historic Paris climate accord.

Some things I’ve read, seen, and heard in the past few months

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2017

Don’t pay too much attention to the letter grades, they’re super subjective. Oh, and don’t pay too much attention to the descriptions…also subjective. You know what, you should probably just skip this post and watch Planet Earth II instead. It’s objectively great.

The Handmaiden. Khoi Vinh turned me onto this. Loved it. (A)

What Happened, Miss Simone? Nina Simone is underrated. There are some spine-tingling live musical moments in this film. (B+)

The Three-Body Problem. Recommended by Barry. The first book is great, the next two are good but pretty depressing. (B+)

Moonlight. While this didn’t grab me as much as it did everyone else, the Academy got it right. (A-)

The Night Manager. I can see what Taylor Swift saw in Tom Hiddleston. (B+)

T2 Trainspotting. If you saw and loved the original, you should see this. It is somehow nostalgic and also not. (B)

Girls. The struggles of 20-something New Yorkers and the crises of 40-something males may not be the same, but they sure do rhyme. (B+)

Beauty and the Beast. Better than I expected, even for a musical about the Stockholm syndrome. (I mean, why didn’t the Beast let Belle go like waaaay sooner?) I never saw the original when I was a kid but somehow knew all the songs anyway? I even got a little teary at the end but perhaps that’s just because my emotional life is a puddly mess rn. (B)

Hidden Figures. Really liked this. (A-)

Turing’s Cathedral. Raging Bull. Manchester by the Sea. I am increasingly bored by stories about white dudes. Look at the rest of this list. The best stuff, the things I liked the most, are stories about or stories told by women or people of color or non-Americans. (C)

Homo Deus. Still haven’t finished this, but I’m persisting because Sapiens was so good. Hard to escape the conclusion that the sequel is not quite so good. (B-)

Planet Earth II. This is the best thing I’ve seen in the last year. Just fucking watch it already. (A+)

More Life. Liking this more than Views. Drake’s non-albums are better than his albums. (B+)

Mad Men. My second time through. Better than I remember and I remember it being great. (A+)

The Crown. Expected Downton (soapy but fun) but was rewarded with great acting and writing. Claire Foy as Elizabeth and John Lithgow as Churchill were *kisses fingers*. (A)

“Awaken My Love”. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t figure this one out. (C-)

Wonderland. Steven Johnson’s best book yet. (A)

The Underground Railroad. Nothing to say about this that already hasn’t been said. (A)

Logan. Producers are realizing they’ve stocked their superhero movies with great actors so maybe they should give them material worthy of their talents. (B+)

Finding Dory. It’s a movie about disability. (A-)

Abstract. Pretty good, but I agree with Rob Walker’s take. Niemann is closest to the way I work/think but I liked Bjarke’s episode the best…even though I’ve got some, er, issues with the guy. (B)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The script, not the play. I have now read all 8 of the Harry Potter books with my kids…it took more than 4 years. Very sad it’s over…it ended up being one of the most rewarding things I’ve done with them. (B+)

Recreating history for the movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2017

For movies based on historical events, getting the details right can be essential in convincing the audience they’re watching something meaningful and important, particularly if the real-world scenes are iconic. But often, historical happenings are changed to make scenes more cinematically effective. This video shows several historical events coupled with their cinematic recreations in films like Jackie, Into the Wild, JFK, Catch Me If You Can, and Selma.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2017

From director Martin McDonagh, who is also responsible for In Bruges, comes Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. Frances McDormand stars and even in the trailer, she is a force of nature. (No offense to Meryl Streep, but McDormand is a very strong candidate for the best actor or actress working today.) The red band trailer above is entertaining in its use of many of George Carlin’s seven dirty words but I prefer the more conventional trailer I saw in the theater the other day — which I cannot locate online for some reason — because, among other reasons, it contains more Peter Dinklage.

Citizen Jane, a documentary film about Jane Jacobs

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2017

Citizen Jane: The Battle for the City is a documentary films about Jane Jacobs and her legendary battle against Robert Moses for the soul of New York City.

People have to insist on government trying things their way.

The film will be available in theaters and on-demand on April 21.

I’m a bit more than halfway through the audiobook of The Power Broker and Robert Moses is approaching the height of his influence. The power that Moses possessed in NYC almost cannot be overstated — I can’t think of any other single person who affected the “look and feel” of the city more than he did. I have heard the story many times, but I can’t wait to get the part with Jacobs, to hear in Caro’s words how this infinitely powerful man lost his grip on the city because of this remarkable woman and a group of concerned citizens. (via @daveg)

Update: Astoundingly, Jacobs is not in The Power Broker. Her chapter was cut for length. (thx, alec)

The end of Rogue One + the beginning of Star Wars

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 22, 2017

The ending of Rogue One — spoilers! — shows an unconvincing CG clone of Princess Leia receiving the plans for the Death Star just before her ship jumps into hyperspace. The beginning of Star Wars takes place just a few minutes (or hours?) after the final scene in Rogue One. Vader’s ship has caught the Rebel ship. He boards it and captures Leia, but not before she hands off the plans to R2-D2, who escapes to Tatooine with C-3PO. Watching them cut together like this, the whole narrative makes a lot more sense. BTW, on March 24, you’ll be able to watch both movies back-to-back in the comfort of your home when Rogue One is available for digital download.

A recreation of the bedroom from 2001: A Space Odyssey

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 22, 2017

2001 Bedroom Replica

2001 Bedroom Replica

2001 Bedroom Replica

Artist Simon Birch and architect Paul Kember have recreated the famous bedroom from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as part of a larger art project called The 14th Factory in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Weirdly, when Birch approached Kember about doing the project, Kember revealed that his uncles had worked on the actual set for Kubrick:

Birch showed the project’s architect, a guy named Paul Kember, a series of stills from the film hoping he’d be able to recreate it. Then Paul goes, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Oh, Si, didn’t I tell you? My uncle and great-uncle — you know, Tony and John? — were draughtsman on that movie, and they literally — literally! — worked on that exact room! Isn’t that bonkers?!”

From the Instagram evidence, it looks as though you can walk around the bedroom, sit on the furniture, lay on the bed, etc. This might almost be worth making a special trip to LA.

The best movie dialogue of all time

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 21, 2017

Cinefix lists the best movie dialogue of all time. This is an unorthodox list…not sure many would rate Aaron Sorkin’s movie about Steve Jobs so highly. I enjoyed the shout out to Primer for its realistic-seeming dialogue of the cofounders of a small startup dealing with terrific success.

The first trailer for Coco

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2017

Pixar’s next movie, Coco, is coming out in November and here’s the first trailer.

Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events.

Lee Unkrich (Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3) directs and the movie is out on November 22.

Baby Driver

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2017

A heist film featuring a getaway driver named Baby — B. A. B. Y. Baby? — directed by Edgar Wright of Hot Fuzz fame? Take. My. Money. This is like the comedy version of Drive. In making the film, Wright himself was influenced by the “holy trinity” of heist films from the 90s: Point Break, Reservoir Dogs, and Heat.

See also Tony Zhou’s video tribute to Wright: How to Do Visual Comedy.

Update: Well, that was the international trailer (which is good!) and this is the American trailer (which perhaps is not as good).

Is it me or does the American trailer aim about 15 IQ points lower than the other one? (thx, david)

A fan recut Breaking Bad into a 2-hour movie

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2017

The events and highly intricate plot lines of Breaking Bad take place over 62 episodes spanning 5 seasons, a true megamovie. Is it possible to edit all that down into a feature-length film that makes any sense? This fan-edit aims to answer that question.

What if Breaking Bad was a movie?

After two years of sleepless nights of endless editing, we bring you the answer to that very question. A study project that became an all-consuming passion.

It’s not a fan-film, hitting the highlights of show in a home-made homage, but rather a re-imagining of the underlying concept itself, lending itself to full feature-length treatment.

An alternative Breaking Bad, to be viewed with fresh eyes.

I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet — perhaps tonight — but am curious if it’s any good.

Update: Aaaaand it got taken down. Fun while it lasted! I’ve updated the embed to this copy on YouTube but that probably won’t last that long either.

Update: If you missed it yesterday before it got taken down, it seems to be back in its original home on Vimeo. *shrug* (Hahaha, it was up for about 10 minutes. Gone again!)

Teaser trailer for Deadpool 2

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2017

I tend not to like superhero movies as a genre — they take themselves far too seriously for something that’s supposed to be fun — but I really enjoyed Deadpool and it looks like Deadpool 2 is going to be more of the same so, yeah, I’ll see that when it comes out.

(This trailer was attached to the front end of Logan, which I also really liked. Yes, the movie took itself very seriously, but it was also a reminder that modern blockbuster movies are stuffed with acting talent and if you give those underutilized actors good material and let them go, good things happen.)

To The Right

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2017

To The Right is a collection of left-to-right tracking shots from movies assembled by Candice Drouet. Included are films like Jackie Brown, Fight Club, Little Miss Sunshine, Psycho, The Shining, and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

OJ: Made in America is about more than just OJ

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 01, 2017

Ezra Edelman’s fantastic documentary OJ: Made in America won the Oscar for best documentary this year. In a video for Fandor, Joel Bocko explains while the film’s focus is on Simpson, it also explores seven broader themes about contemporary America: sports, the media, Los Angeles, class, domestic abuse, policing, and race.

OJ: Made in America emerges not simply as a brilliant biography, it’s also a stunning social portrait that can stand beside any novel, epic film, or piece of longform journalism.

And in this video for The Atlantic, Edelman explains how, before murdering his ex-wife, Simpson was an advertising pioneer, the first black athlete to become a nationally known product pitchman, appearing in commercials for Hertz, Chevy, and Schick.

One of the most interesting aspects of Edelman’s film is how Simpson’s feelings about being black shifted after his arrest. For most of his life, he distanced himself from the black community, famously declaring “I’m not black, I’m OJ.” He didn’t get involved in the politics of the day or speak out like Muhammed Ali and other prominent black athletes did. He enjoyed preferential treatment by the LAPD, who help him keep his abuse of women under wraps. Black America had nothing to offer a man who enjoyed being rich and famous in white America. But then the trial happened and he hired Johnny Cochran, who made race into the central issue of the case, deftly aligning Simpson with a black community who had endured decades of racism and brutality in LA at the hands of society and the police.

The tools ILM built to make Rogue One are super interesting

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 01, 2017

Every time I watch or read something about how Rogue One was made, I come away more intrigued. And it’s not about how they made the film…it’s about the tools they built to help them make the film. A few weeks ago, I posted about the full-length story reel they made from bits of old movies so that director Gareth Edwards could determine the pacing:

There was no screenplay, there was just a story breakdown at that point, scene by scene. He got me to rip hundreds of movies and basically make ‘Rogue One’ using other films so that they could work out how much dialogue they actually needed in the film.

It’s very simple to have a line [in the script] that reads “Krennic’s shuttle descends to the planet”, now that takes maybe 2-3 seconds in other films, but if you look at any other ‘Star Wars’ film you realise that takes 45 seconds or a minute of screen time. So by making the whole film that way — I used a lot of the ‘Star Wars’ films — but also hundreds of other films too, it gave us a good idea of the timing.

In this video, we see a couple more tools the team used to facilitate the making of the film. The first is a VR video game of sorts that ILM built so that Edwards could move a virtual camera around in a virtual set to find just the right camera angles to capture the action, resulting in a process that was more flexible than traditional storyboarding.

The second tool jumped around a virtual set — a complete digital model of Jedha City — and rendered hundreds of street views from it at random. Then the filmmakers would look through the scenes for interesting shots and found scenes that looked more “natural” than something a digital effects artist might have come up with on purpose — basically massively parallel location scouting.

Both are attempts to introduce more serendipity and possibility into a digital filmmaking process that sometimes feels a little stilted. I think animation studios like Pixar have been using these techniques for years, but it’s interesting to see them applied to live-action films like Rogue One.

Update: The Verge’s Bryan Bishop talked to Edwards and visual effects supervisor John Knoll and came away with more interesting details about how they used technology in filming Rogue One.

Typically, you’d have to storyboard these things, and that means you’re pulling from some default, subconscious idea in your head, probably based on another film you’ve seen, where you feel like it should be this shot. I find you get much better, more unique, shots when you are in a real environment, trying to find something that’s unfolding in front of you. You get inspired because of the light and shapes and things. It was like being in the real world more, and like the way we shot a lot of the rest of the movie.

I think if I ever do a big film again, and there’s a big digital set piece in it, whatever that is, I would definitely want to pre-animate it and then go in with a camera and try and film it like it was real.

Read the whole thing…the bit about the LED screens is fascinating. Prior to the 1980s, aside from some relatively minor editing tricks, effects in movies were mainly done during shooting. More recently, most of the production happens after the cameras stop rolling: extensively green-screened footage of the actors is combined with entire sets and worlds that are completely digital. With Rogue One, they tried to move some of that production back into the shooting phase in order to give the director more control over the scenes and the actors a more immersive environment in which to act. (via @sippey)

Hayao Miyazaki is coming out of retirement

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2017

The Japan Times is reporting that legendary director Hayao Miyazaki has un-retired and is currently working on a new feature-length animated film for Studio Ghibli!

The decision comes nearly 3 1/2 years after Miyazaki, 76, announced his retirement amid persistent calls for him to make a comeback from his fans both in and outside Japan.

“He is creating it in Tokyo, working hard right now,” Toshio Suzuki, a producer at the major Japanese animation company, said Thursday on a talk show, adding he was presented by the animation maestro with the storyboard of the new film at the end of last year.

“(The storyboard) was quite exciting,” 68-year-old Suzuki said, adding, “but if I’d told him it was good, I know it would ruin my own retirement,” as making the film would dominate his life, Suzuki told the audience.

(via @garymross)

Update: Miyazaki is working on a film called Boro the Caterpillar (Kemushi no Boro), which was originally going to be a short film before the director decided it would work better at a feature length. Here are some clips and sketches from the film, which won’t be out for another couple of years.

Designing the graphics for the Harry Potter movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2017

Daily Prophet

Quibbler

Mudblood Dangers

MinaLima (aka Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima) is the design studio that designs all of the graphics, signs, newspapers, decrees, posters, labels, maps, book covers, and packaging that you see in the Harry Potter movies.

The range of design styles on display is impressive and captures the films’ combination of humour, horror and fantasy.

On one wall, packaging and adverts for products in a shop owned by the Weasley family combine early 20th century print advertising with humorous taglines and garish colours, while posters promoting the fictional game of Quidditch (below) reference 1950s Olympics adverts.

Official notices and letters use hand written fonts, and pamphlets demonising ‘mudbloods’ — a wizard born to non-wizard parents — are inspired by Soviet progaganda (top).

“One of the best things about working on the Harry Potter films was being able to try out so many different styles, from Victorian letterpress to modern design,” says Lima.

“The Daily Prophet was designed to look very Gothic, as did the architecture of Hogwarts [the boarding school for wizards where the film is set]. When an organisation called the Ministry of Magic takes control in later films, the school becomes a kind of totalitarian state, so we started looking to Russian constructivist design to reflect that,” says Mina.

They also worked on the Fantastic Beasts movie. You can follow their work on Instagram and a bunch of the best stuff is available for purchase on their site.

Every Best Animated Feature Oscar winner

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2017

Since 2001, the Oscars have awarded The Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The video above shows a scene from each of the winning movies: Shrek, Spirited Away, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Happy Feet, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, Toy Story 3, Rango, Brave, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Inside Out….as well as 2016’s five nominees: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, and Zootopia. Pixar has dominated the category with 8 wins (and 10 nominations) out of 15 years, but the strong field this year meant the studio’s critically acclaimed blockbuster Finding Dory wasn’t even nominated, joining Cars 2, Monsters University, and The Good Dinosaur as the only Pixar films made during that period not to be nominated.

How the BBC made Planet Earth II

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2017

In the first of a three-part video series, Vox’s Joss Fong looks at how the technology used to film nature documentaries has changed over the past 50 years and how the producers of Planet Earth II used contemporary image stabilization techniques to make the series with a more cinematic style.

In the 1970s and ’80s, it was enough for the NHU to show people a creature they’d never seen before and provide the details in the narration. The films were illustrated zoology lectures. Since then, the producers have become sticklers for capturing specific behaviors, and in Planet Earth II, they showcase the drama of those behaviors. Each scene sets up the characters to perform something - something brave, something brutal, something bizarre. They’ve made room for our emotions; that’s what cinematic storytelling means.

And visually, the cinematic approach means the camera is often moving.

Hollywood filmmakers have kept the camera in motion for decades, but for obvious reasons, it’s much more difficult when your subject is wildlife. As we explain in the video at the top of this post, NHU producers used new stabilization tools throughout the production of Planet Earth II to move the camera alongside the animals.

The program doesn’t make you wait long to showcase this new approach. The tracking shot of a lemur jumping from tree to tree is one of the first things you see in the first episode and it put my jaw right on the floor. It’s so close and fluid, how did they do that? Going into the series, I thought it was going to be more of the same — Planet Earth but with new stories, different animals, etc. — but this is really some next-level shit. The kids were more excited after watching it than any movie they’ve seen in the past 6 months (aside from possibly Rogue One). The Blu-ray will be out at the end of March1 but there’s also a 4K “ultra HD” version that had me researching new ultra HD TVs I don’t really need.

Oh, and remember that thrilling sequence of the snakes chasing the newly hatched iguanas? Here’s a short clip on how they filmed it.

Update: The second video in the series is an ode to the BBC’s pioneering use of slow motion and time lapse photography in their nature programs.

Fong also explains one of my favorite things to come out of the first Planet Earth show, the slow motion buffer capture system used by the crew to catch great white sharks leaping out of the water.

But also, digital high-speed cameras came with a continuous recording feature. Instead of pressing a button to start recording and then pressing it again to stop, they could press the button as soon as they saw some action, and the camera would save the seconds that happened before the button was pressed. That’s how the cameraman captured this great white shark coming out of the water, not just in the air, for this sequence in the 2006 Planet Earth series.

I hope the third program is on sound, which has been bugging me while watching Planet Earth II. I could be wrong, but they seem to be using extensive foley effects for the sounds the animals make — not their cries necessarily, but the sounds they make as they move. Once you notice, it feels deceptive.

Update: The concluding video in the series shows how the filmmakers use thermal and infrared cameras to capture scenes at night.

The bit at the end about the Sony a7S is interesting — as cameras go, this one is much cheaper than the professional high-def cameras used for most of the scenes but is way better in low light.

  1. I still have a Blu-ray player than I barely use and only buy 1-2 BR discs a year, but Planet Earth II is one of those increasingly rare programs you want to see in full HD without compression or streaming artifacts.

Free online lessons in storytelling & moviemaking from Pixar

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 17, 2017

In partnership with Khan Academy, Pixar is offering a number of free online lessons in making 3D animated movies and storytelling called Pixar in a Box. Here’s a video introduction of what courses are available:

There are lessons on rendering, shading, crowds, virtual cameras, and many other topics, but the most accessible for people of all ages/interests is probably the lessons on The Art of Storytelling, which were just posted earlier this week. Here’s the introductory video for that, featuring Pete Docter, director of Up and Inside Out.

This is pretty cool. I’m hoping to spend some more time with this over the weekend.

Arrival: future communication, past perspective

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 15, 2017

In his newest video, Evan Puschak talks about Arrival, calling it “a response to bad movies”. Arrival was perhaps my favorite film of 2016, and I agree with him about how well-made this film is. There’s a top-to-bottom attention to craft on display, from how it looks to how it was cast (Amy Adams was the absolute perfect choice for the lead) to the integration of the theme with story to how expertly it was adapted from Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life. The whole thing’s tight as a drum. If you happened to miss it, don’t watch this video (it gives the whole thing away) and go watch it instead…it’s available to rent/buy on Amazon.

Looking back through the archives, I’m realizing I never did a post about Arrival even though I collected some links about it. So, linkdump time!

Wired wrote about how the movie’s alien alphabet was developed.

Stephen Wolfram wrote about his involvement with the science of the film — his son Christopher wrote Mathematica code for some of the on-screen visuals. 1

Science vs Cinema explored how well the movie represented actual science:

Screenwriter Eric Heisserer wrote about how he adapted Chiang’s short story for the screen.

Jordan Brower wrote a perceptive review/analysis that includes links to several other resources about the film.

Update: The director of photography for Arrival was Bradford Young, who shot Selma and is currently working on the Han Solo movie for Disney. Young did an interview with No Film School just before Arrival came out.

I’m from the South, so quilts are a big part of telling our story. Quilting is ancient, but in the South it’s a very particular translation of idea, time, and space. In my own practice as an image maker, I slowly began to be less concerned with precision and more concerned with feeling.

Quiltmakers are rigorous, but they’re a mixed media format. I think filmmaking should be a mixed media format. I’m just really honoring what quiltmakers do, which is tell a story by using varying texture within a specific framework to communicate an idea. For me, with digital technology, lenses do that the best. The chips don’t do it now-digital film stock is basically all captured the same, but the lenses are how you give the image its textural quality.

(thx, raafi)

Update: James Gleick, author of Time Travel, wrote about Arrival and Story of Your Life for The New York Review of Books.

What if the future is as real as the past? Physicists have been suggesting as much since Einstein. It’s all just the space-time continuum. “So in the future, the sister of the past,” thinks young Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses, “I may see myself as I sit here now but by reflection from that which then I shall be.” Twisty! What if you received knowledge of your own tragic future-as a gift, or perhaps a curse? What if your all-too-vivid sensation of free will is merely an illusion? These are the roads down which Chiang’s story leads us. When I first read it, I meant to discuss it in the book I was writing about time travel, but I could never manage that. It’s not a time-travel story in any literal sense. It’s a remarkable work of imagination, original and cerebral, and, I would have thought, unfilmable. I was wrong.

(via @fquist)

  1. Christopher was 15 or 16 when he worked on the film. His LinkedIn profile states that he’s been a programmer for Wolfram (the company) since he was 13 and that in addition to his work on Arrival, he “implemented the primary cryptography functions in Mathematica”.

Winners of the 2017 Underwater Photographer of the Year awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 15, 2017

Underwater 2017

Underwater 2017

In Focus is featuring some of the winning shots from the 2017 Underwater Photographer of the Year awards. The top one is Dancing Octopus taken by Gabriel Barathieu and the bottom one is by Qing Lin, who took the photo near Lembeh, Indonesia, which is home to some of the strangest marine life in the world.

If you look at Lin’s photo of the clownfish for more than a second or two — pay attention…this is the nightmarish side to living on the reef that Pixar kept from you in Finding Nemo — you will notice not just three pairs of eyes but six pairs of eyes. In the mouth of each clownfish is a parasitic isopod looking right at the camera. The isopod enters the fish through the gills, attaches itself to the fish’s tongue, feeds on the blood in the tongue until it falls off, and then attaches itself to the tongue stump. And the fish uses the isopod as a replacement tongue! Cool! And gross!

Hidden Figures

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 14, 2017

I finally got the chance to see Hidden Figures the other day. Recommended. It’s a science/space story in the vein of Apollo 13, but the twin engines of the film are the three excellent lead actresses — Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer & Janelle Monáe — and the persistent portrayal of the systemic biases of segregation and sexism. You watch this movie and think, how much higher could the human race have flown if women and people of color had always had the same opportunities as white men?1 How many Katherine Johnsons never got the chance to develop and use their skills in math, science, or technology because of their skin color or gender? Our society wastes so much energy and human lives telling people what they can’t do rather than empowering them to show everyone what they can do.

Hidden Figures was adopted from Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name. The film takes some dramatic license with the timing of certain events but overall is historically accurate.

The film primarily focuses on John Glenn’s 1962 trip around the globe and does add dramatic flourishes that are, well, Hollywood. However, most of the events in the movie are historically accurate. Johnson’s main job in the lead-up and during the mission was to double-check and reverse engineer the newly-installed IBM 7090s trajectory calculations. As it shows, there were very tense moments during the flight that forced the mission to end earlier than expected. And John Glenn did request that Johnson specifically check and confirm trajectories and entry points that the IBM spat out (albeit, perhaps, not at the exact moment that the movie depicts). As Shetterly wrote in her book and explained in a September NPR interview, Glenn did not completely trust the computer. So, he asked the head engineers to “get the girl to check the numbers… If she says the numbers are good… I’m ready to go.”

You can view Johnson’s published reports on NASA’s site, including her initial technical report from 1960 on the Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position.

  1. I’m using the past tense here, but I am definitely not saying that women and people of color now possess those same opportunities. Take a quick look at the current racial and gender wage gaps in the US and you’ll see that they still do not.

The typography of Stanley Kubrick

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 14, 2017

Kubrick Typography

From designer Christian Annyas, an overview of the typography used in the titles and posters of Stanley Kubrick’s movies. Click on each graphic to see the poster or title sequence it was sourced from.

The evolution of Keanu Reeves

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 09, 2017

I really like Keanu Reeves. He’s one of my favorite actors and seems like a genuinely nice person who has dealt well with his stardom. But after watching this collection of clips from every single movie he’s ever been in, I can’t tell if Reeves is actually a good actor or not. He definitely gets better as his career progresses, but many scenes where emotion or nuance are called for are just…oof. It’s like he’s reading the dictionary sometimes. But I still like him! Why is that?

See also: Danny Bowes believes Reeves belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Hollywood Action Stars along with John Wayne, Tom Cruise, and Harrison Ford.

Update: From Peter Suderman, Why Keanu Reeves is a perfect action star:

This may come off hyperbolic, or flat-out inaccurate, to those who don’t see Reeves as a great screen actor. And granted, his performance style doesn’t capture the tiny nuances of human reactions that are usually associated with great acting; he’s often characterized as a big-screen blank, and that’s not an entirely faulty statement.

But while it’s not wrong to label Reeves a blank, it’s also not enough. For nearly three decades, Reeves has proven himself one of Hollywood’s most durable and entertaining action stars, and the John Wick films show why: His total physical commitment to his action roles makes him a perfect avatar for the visions of ambitious action directors. At his very best, he becomes inseparable from the cinematic visions he embodies.