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July 12, 2017
[movies] To the Wonder: The Lyrical Appeal and Influence of Richard Donner’s ‘Superman’ … a look at the lasting appeal of the original Superman movie‘On Superman, Donner had a clear vision, almost of three movies in one, with distinct styles, linked by the thread of the Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman journey—a “lasso of truth” to use the parlance of uber-fan Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman. Krypton would be avant-garde, strange, heightened; Smallville, Norman Rockwell by way of Terrence Malick—high school touchdowns, wide open vistas, a yearning for home and honesty; and Metropolis–bustling, wise-cracking, a cartoon New York, alive to possibility. All grounded by what Donner termed “verisimilitude”: absolute truth and belief in the scenario and character on screen—no mugging to camera.’
July 5, 2017
[alien] A Profane Abomination … a list of designs H.R. Giger was hired to produce for the movie Alien … ‘THE ALIEN, THIRD (MATURE) PHASE. Having left its victim, the Alien promptly grows to man-size, whereupon it is terrifically dangerous. It is very mobile, strong, and capable of tearing a man to pieces. It feeds on human flesh. This creature should be a profane abomination. Our producers have suggested that something resembling an over-sized, deformed baby might be sufficiently loathsome…’
June 16, 2017
[food] David Lynch cooks Quinoa‘Quinoa is something that I like to have for dinner every chance I get. Start with a pan. And this pan is unbelievable – it’s super heavy and lined with copper. It’s such a good pan. I’m going to go over now and fill this pan at the sink with some fresh water…’
May 17, 2017
[movies] Crime in Counterpoint: Michael Mann on his Restored Masterpiece Heat‘I’ve got a theory, which probably holds no water whatsoever, about why there’s so much genre content in media — meaning police stories, crime stories, so much of that. It’s because of the nature of the medium. Detectives detecting do what writers and directors do in the inverse: We have an idea for a character, and our character has origins that we invent. Those origins become an engine that causes him to do certain activities and express himself and have different attitudes based on who the character is. And then those activities have consequences and leave behind certain effects. But a detective works all the way at the other end. He sees the remains of a crime — the leavings. He starts to work backwards to what happened. What was the activity? And if this was the activity, what could I discover about the motivations of the person whose identity I do not know? And how can those motivations allow me to predict his future activity, so that I can intercept him and find out who he is?’
May 10, 2017
[life] Britain’s ‘moral values’ based on Star Wars, Breakfast Club and The Godfather‘Tom Logan, from Hatfield, said: “Star Wars taught me about the importance of freedom, democracy and courage in the face of tyranny. And about the importance of using your miraculous gifts to benefit the entire galaxy.” Jane Thompson, from Stevenage, added: “Breakfast Club taught me that we are all insecure but that through dialogue we can find our common humanity. It also taught me that teachers are the worst people in the world.”’
May 2, 2017
[kubrick] Forever and Ever and Ever: Uncanny Doubles in ‘The Shining’ … A look at how Kubrick heightened a sense of the Uncanny in the Shining … ‘Robert Kolker writes that the film also features many instances of symmetrical framing. He notes that each side of the frame is doubled and perfectly composed, and therefore any horrific event happening within the frame seems even more out of place and strange. The symmetrical shots are almost too perfect, which can be uncanny and off-putting in itself. Kolker cites the red bathroom as an example of a symmetrically framed scene, with its rows of white urinals and sinks lining either side of the wall and the long mirrors running along the wall. The bathroom is symmetrical, yet Jack and Grady discuss violent, murderous plans in the middle of the room, throwing the symmetry off balance and into uncanny space.’
March 22, 2017
[movies] The Purity of John Wick … a look at what make John Wick so good … ‘John Wick is the purest and most joyful action movie I’ve ever seen. And given its full embrace of the genre, it may very well be one of the purest movies, full stop.’
February 14, 2017
[valentines] Robocop Valentines

February 9, 2017
[movies] Gene Hackman: 10 essential films‘Less well known than The Conversation, but just as impressive, Night Moves is one of the great thrillers of the 1970s. It’s a detective story in which Hackman plays Harry Moseby, a football player turned private eye who gets caught in the middle of dubious activities in the Florida Keys. He’s on his very best form, the tough humour hiding a deep sensitivity about his decaying marriage and his own personal failures, and he relishes the literate, witty dialogue provided by Alan Sharp and the chance to play opposite the splendid Jennifer Warren, an actor with whom he has great chemistry.’
February 7, 2017
[movies] The Other Kane … the fascinating story of the other actor who (briefly) played Kane in Alien before John Hurt … ‘In the beginning, the actor portraying Kane was Shakespearean stage veteran, Jon Finch. The story of Finch’s departure is somewhat muddled. Most sources agree that Finch left the film due to a diabetic attack, which is denied by Finch himself. Some say that Finch’s illness revealed itself before the cameras, another says it took place in a plasterer’s chair. Some say he filmed for weeks, some say he filmed for days, and some say he filmed for merely one shot.’
February 3, 2017
[kubrick] The Shining: Who is the Man in the Bear Costume?

January 30, 2017
[comics] Steranko’s Outland … go and look at scans from Jim Steranko’s stunning comic adaptation of the 1981 Sci-fi movie Outland …

January 9, 2017
[weird] The movie that doesn’t exist and the Redditors who think it does … Do you remember a movie from early Nineties called Shazaam? …

It wasn’t until last year that things took a dramatic turn.

On 11 August 2015, the popular gonzo news site VICE published a story about a conspiracy theory surrounding the children’s storybook characters the Berenstain Bears. The theory went like this: many people remember that the bears’ name was spelt “Berenstein” – with an “e” – but pictures and old copies proved it was always spelt with an “a”. The fact that so many people had the same false memory was seen as concrete proof of the supernatural.

“Berenstein” truthers believe in something called the “Mandela Effect”: a theory that a large group of people with the same false memory used to live in a parallel universe (the name comes from those who fervently believe that Nelson Mandela died while in prison). VICE’s article about the theory was shared widely, leading thousands of people to r/MandelaEffect, a subreddit for those with false memories to share their experiences.

December 31, 2016
[movies] The Poseidon Adventure Is Still One of the Most Insane Disaster Movies Ever Made … Gizmodo remembers The Poseidon Adventure‘Then there’s Gene Hackman, who had won his first Oscar a year prior, for 1971’s The French Connection. Here, he channels some of that Popeye Doyle snarl into his portrayal of Rev. Frank Scott, a take-action man of God who favors turtlenecks rather than clerical collars.Why would a newly minted Best Actor sign on for a ridiculous action movie? What other movie would let him use a giant fake Christmas tree as an escape ladder, engage in multiple screaming matches with Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine), dramatically curse God, and ultimately sacrifice himself to save a group of passengers who otherwise would’ve been literally dead in the water?’
November 15, 2016
[movies] Nicolas Cage’s 50 Best Movies, Ranked By Greatness‘Bringing out the Dead: Martin Scorcese directs Cage in a film written by Paul Schrader. Yes, it’s really good.’
September 21, 2016
[movies] Where Will Snowden Rank Among Oliver Stone’s 10 Biopics? … an attempt at ranking Oliver Stone’s biopics … ‘JFK is in some ways a ridiculous film. It’s also one of the greatest films of all time. Stone puts the audience through over three hours of near-constant information overload, accented by a variety of film stocks and shooting styles, all leading the viewer to feel, by the end, that they see conspiracy everywhere they look. Stone doesn’t just tell the story of Garrison’s life. He immerses us in Garrison’s headspace until we can’t help thinking the way he thinks, and see the world the way he sees it. It’s an incredible cinematic feat…’
September 6, 2016
[movies] 10 great British rural horror films … interesting list of British horror films to watch … ‘Witchfinder General is a doom-laden film. Many of its characters are either left dead or end up in a terrible state, while Michael Reeves, its brilliant young director, died shortly after the film’s release while still in his 20s. Yet it’s also an extraordinarily beautiful film that makes great use of extensive location shooting in the east of England. Here it is not the landscape itself that is the source of unease but rather the savagery of the people who occupy it. This juxtaposition of an indifferent nature with appalling human behaviour recurs in other British rural horrors, but it is never done quite so effectively.’
September 5, 2016
[movies] Sean Young’s Polaroids from the set of ‘Blade Runner’ … you can find the full set here.

Sean Young's Blade Runner Polaroids

July 20, 2016
[movies] Cageomasochism: Loving to Hate Nicolas Cage … How to understand Nicolas Cage’s roller-coaster career… ‘The larger, more glaring problem for me is this insane idea that in recent years Cage has been doing nothing but cash grabs. If you think Nicolas Cage views any of his roles as an easy way to earn a quick buck, you’ve never actually watched this man act. The late Roger Ebert was a big fan of Cage and once described him by saying, “He’s daring and fearless in his choice of roles, and unafraid to crawl out on a limb, saw it off and remain suspended in air. No one else can project inner trembling so effectively…he always seems so earnest.” I think this is the best description of Cage I’ve ever heard and that last snippet I’m especially fond of.’
June 24, 2016
[space] The sounds of starships … Metafilter on using the ambient engine sounds of fictional spaceships as white noise … ‘The background engine noises of iconic science fiction spaceships can be remarkably soothing. That is why Spike Snell created 12-hour sound loops…’
June 13, 2016
[hetzog] Lo And Behold: Reveries Of The Connected World Trailer … the official trailer for Werner Herzog’s film about the Internet … ‘Have the monks stopped meditating? They all seem to be tweeting.’ [via Kottke]
June 10, 2016
[anime] How Akira sent shockwaves through pop culture and changed it‘Akira sailed in on a river of blood and cartoon nudity. It looked different to previous anime features, as Otomo took Hollywood films like Bonnie & Clyde as inspiration. The result was a visual paroxysm: the final product pried open audience’s eyes by using a record 327 colours, 50 of which were created specifically for the production. (Akira Red is a thing, apparently.)’
May 23, 2016
[movies] Some thoughts on Blade Runner … by Nathan Jurgenson‘Bladerunner is also very much like the cyborg genre in other ways, for example, in its approach to sex and gender. Deckard (a cop who is finishing off the genocide of a group of sentient slave laborers who attempted to cast away their chains) becomes attracted to the Rachael replicant precisely because she is confused and vulnerable. For both Pris and Rachael, and also Samantha in Her and Ava in Ex Machina, the men in these movies are sexually attracted not to wires and circuits but childlike vulnerability. Pris and Ava are in on it, manipulating men by pretending to be childlike fantasy objects. Samantha and Rachael instead merely reflect that same desire in those making and watching the films. Deckard makes this most explicit when he has Rachael in his apartment and starts kissing her. She tries to escape, but Deckard doesn’t let her. She says no, and he says her no is really a yes, and repeats this until she complies. Deckard is attracted to telling her how to say yes, how to desire, to make decisions for her, and ultimately be her savior. Like most cyborg movies, the cyborg is a fembot, and the movies ultimately say more about sex than technology.’
May 18, 2016
[movies] Behind the Scenes of Alien … amazing gallery of photos and designs from the production of Alien …

Eddie Powell in Alien Costume

May 9, 2016
[movies] The Time they used a Whippet Dog as a Xenomorph … fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a failed special effect experiment for Alien³

Whippet Dog As Xenomorph in Alien³

April 26, 2016
[movies] An electrician remembers: I worked with Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick‘It was a small crew and he used us for bit parts. Because they rarely shoot leading artists when you can’t see their face, he said to me: “You look like Jack – put on the jeans and boots.” In the film, when a semi-conscious Jack is dragged into the food store, those are my legs on screen. He asked me to be the guy in a bear suit with his arse hanging out and his head in a man’s lap at the end. But I said: “No, mate, I ain’t having that.” Could you imagine? Everyone at home saying: “That’s Bobby Tanswell.” Nope, sorry.’
April 8, 2016
[movies] ‘Superman,’ The Inside Story: Director Richard Donner Remembers Meeting Stallone to Play the Lead, Working With Brando, and a Near-Fatal Knife Attack … Richard Donner describes how Superman: The Movie got made …

I was brought up on Superman as a kid. There was a whole point in my life where I read Superman. So when I was finished with it, I was like, “Man, if they make this movie, they are destroying the legend of Superman.” I wanted to do it just to defend him.

I called [writer] Tom Mankiewicz, who had been a friend for years. He said, “I don’t want to get involved. I don’t want to do a comic book.” I said, “Tom, it’s more than a comic book. Please come over.”

I got a little stoned, smoked some weed, put on the Superman costume. I was in pretty good shape then. It was like elastic. And Tom pulled up, and I ran across the lawn and Tom turned and looked at me and ran back to his car.

Tom says, “You’re crazy. Get the f— away from me!”

March 21, 2016
[kubrick] There’s Something About Stanley: Kubrick’s Strange Science Of Obsession … the search for meaning in Stanley Kubrick’s films… ‘What if the most meaningful clue is not in anything that the Kubraphiles are proposing, but in the fact that they are looking, and what if Kubrick intended this to happen? Allowing that it was more than just the deluded bid for immortality of a cosmically inflated ego, what might the end game be here? As I suspect every good Zen master will tell you, the nature of such a many-layered puzzle is that it’s not the answer but the experience of finding it that leads to understanding.’
March 8, 2016
[movies] The Mystery of the Maltese Falcon, One of the Most Valuable Movie Prop … What happened to the statuettes used in The Maltese Falcon movie? …

Suddenly here it is, plopped down in the middle of an antique chessboard like a massive rook, a foot-high black statuette of a falcon. The hunched, brooding shoulders are instantly recognizable.

There is a long moment of silence.

“This is the thing dreams are made of,” Risan announces.

I’m not sure what to say. He has told me he actually owns two Falcons. I ask where the other one is. “I leave it downstairs,” Risan replies. “It’s too fucking evil. It has the presence of surrealism. American surrealism. The evocation of evil that it manifests is not normally the kind of thing I like to collect. I like the Warhols, the chessboards. So I leave it in the basement.”

This is a lot to digest. Risan senses my skepticism.

“I know, right?” he says with a smile. “Weird. Weird guy with a lot of art.”

March 3, 2016
[movies] Ghost in the Shell, over two decades old, remains our most challenging film about technology … a look back at the anime/manga Ghost in the Shell‘Kusanagi also questions what her existence means or even is, and whether she is just a synthetic being created by scientists, with neurological implants aimed at making her more productive. She asks her colleague Batou, “I mean who knows what’s inside our heads. Have you ever seen your own brain?” and examines whether a hyper-connected cyborg could create its own soul all by itself? This scene ultimately poses the final scary question: what is the purpose of being human?’
February 18, 2016
[enhance] Let’s Enhance‘Let’s run this through video enhancement…’

February 15, 2016
[movies] Michael Mann Looks Back on His Career … Michael Mann interviewed… ‘Because, though people characterize Heat as a crime thriller, that’s the last thing it is, at least in my mind. It’s a very formally structured drama, and its structure is a character-driven dialectic of Hanna [Al Pacino’s character] and McCauley [Robert De Niro’s character]. Its plot is driven by a crime story and a police story to a certain point, and then it breaks into a kind of chorus. In that chorus, we see slices of these different people’s lives. The fuguelike nature of the narrative is what was so exciting to me. When you’re with McCauley, you are subjectively immersed in his life, and you want what he wants, his expectations, his ambitions — his heart is your heart. You want him to get away. When you’re with Hanna, you want him to intercept McCauley, and you want him to achieve what’s driving him. That the two of them know and like each other while they’re headed for a lethal collision, and that they’re two of the only people who are like each other in the invented universe of this movie, that’s the construction. It’s brutally rigid construction.’
February 8, 2016
[movies] 44 Of The Most Breathtaking Shots In Michael Mann Movies

William Peterson in Manhunter

January 29, 2016
[toys] Stormtroopers – the world’s biggest army? … a BBC reporter attempts to find out how many Star Wars Action Figures have been sold since 1977 … ‘My first significant breakthrough came from an unlikely source – the Leicestershire County Council Museum Service. The original Star Wars toys were produced under license in the UK by a company called Palitoy. They had a factory in Coalville in Leicestershire, and the museum inherited some of its paper. An internal company newsletter from 1985 revealed it had sold 25 million action figures in the UK alone – more than one toy for every child in the country at the time.’
January 11, 2016
[hertzog] Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World Trailer … a new documenatary about the Internet from Werner Hertzog …

December 1, 2015
[religion] Religious Symbolism in E.T. … a look at the similarities between E.T. and Jesus … ‘Occasionally incongruous pieces of religious symbolism are sprinkled throughout the film. The children’s mother is called Mary, a fact emphasised by her children calling her by her first name throughout the movie. Elliot promises to believe in E.T. his whole life—implying, curiously, that the event would later become a matter of faith. The iconography is also Biblical — a rainbow in the sky, E.T.’s glowing heart, and the famous image of the boy’s and alien’s fingers touching—suspiciously reminiscent of Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam.’
November 18, 2015
[people] Dustin Hoffman hiding from paparazzi…

Dustin Hoffman Hiding From Paparazzi

November 10, 2015
[movies] 50 Brilliant Science Fiction Movies That Everyone Should See At Least Once‘Robocop: Another totally subversive science fiction movie from the 1980s, this film picks up Tron’s obsessions with corporate fascism and runs in a different direction, with the evil OCP trying to take over Detroit’s police force and remake the struggling city as Delta City. RoboCop himself is a great example of science fiction’s struggle with the ways technology changes or negates our humanity, and 20 years before The Dark Knight, this film manages to delve into similar questions about how far we’ll go to keep society safe from crime. A surreal blend of cyberpunk, Frankenstein and action movie, this film remains Verhoeven’s greatest statement.’
November 4, 2015
[comics] 10 great comic book films … a list of ten comic adaptations work watching … ‘American Splendor: This portrait of underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar blurs the boundaries between drama and documentary to disorientating effect. Paul Giamatti stars as Pekar, a Cleveland file clerk who turned his own mundane existence into profound popular art through a series of autobiographical comics. The film’s masterstroke is that Pekar and his wife Joyce narrate, wryly commenting on the dramatisation of their own lives. Hilarious, poignant, piercingly insightful and formally dazzling, American Splendor warrants comparison with Woody Allen at the height of his powers.’
October 29, 2015
[movies] In Cold Blood: why isn’t the movie of Capote’s bestseller a masterpiece? … looking back at the film version of In Cold Blood‘All of In Cold Blood’s virtues are encapsulated in that opening: the black-and-white camerawork of cinematographer Conrad Hall; the music of Jones; and the performance of Robert Blake. Hall’s work draws on news-footage aesthetics, achieving a true-crime tabloid griminess that evokes photographers such as Walker Evans and Robert Frank. Jones sonically anchors his two killers (Smith and Richard “Dick” Hickock, played by Scott Wilson) with unnerving twinned acoustic basses and found sounds. And Robert Blake is Robert Blake, in the keynote performance of his career.’
October 19, 2015
[movies] At Last, the Great Martian Movie … a look at Martian Movies… ‘Maybe the best reason to anticipate more excellent Mars movies is the planet’s pull on something deep within us. Having emerged from our myths, it still feeds our fantasies. It’s the most interesting motif left in archetypal dreams of escape and adventure in strange, vast realms, of human rejuvenation and transcendence through exodus and hardship.’
September 21, 2015
[movies] Martin Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’: Still the Most Realistic Mobster Movie Ever … a look at Goodfellas after 25 Years… ‘Liotta has probably never been better—wormy (his braying laughter at Tommy’s bad jokes is wonderfully hideous) and yet somehow sympathetic. Perhaps because he’s placed alongside two truly cold-blooded men, Henry is the closest thing the audience gets to an anti-hero in the film: His mild shock at every pointless murder feels like moral outrage in the mobster world. That’s a dynamic David Chase understood when laying out the world of his TV show The Sopranos (the only true Mafia masterpiece produced since Goodfellas): By making his protagonist Tony a slightly more reasonable person than his violent, thick-headed associates, the character seemed infinitely more relatable.’
August 26, 2015
[movies] How High Def Is Changing Your Brain—and Driving the Prop Master Crazy … a fascinating look at how High Definition video is changing the way TV and Movies are created … ‘In Cook’s phrase, the property master’s job is “to obtain acceptance for forgeries,” to give a sensation of reality within an illusion. That’s a bit different from mere fidelity to empirical reality. It’s a facsimile of reality plus a dimension of persuasion, reshaped over time by the progress of technology.’ [via As Above]
August 18, 2015
[movies] Dressing The Future … fascinating look at Moebius’ influence on the costume design of Alien … ‘The film reunited the Dune creative team, the other artists did not meet Moebius personally this time around – however, even though he was somewhat more removed from the project than Cobb, Foss, Giger, and O’Bannon (who all either worked on the project from its inception, or from the time it was greenlit) Moebius still turned in work that his co-artists found exemplary. “I was in contact with Moebius indirectly,” said Giger, “as he was designing the costumes for Alien. Those astronauts’ clothes and helmets were just like Ridley Scott wanted them. They looked like ancient divers. He did a fantastic job.” “Moebius did the designs for the astronauts,” Giger told Cinefantastique in ’79. “They wear a kind of Japanese armour and helmets which could belong to just about any period of time.”’
July 28, 2015
[movies] 2001 A Space Odyssey: Unwrapping the Slit Scan sequences‘While watching Kubrick’s “2001 A Space Odyssey”, I thought it would be fun to write some software to unravel the slit scan artwork in the psychedelic sequences of 2001, to see what they were.The technique used to unravel the sequences involved using an SGI’s real time video hardware, with a hacked version of ‘videoin.c’ (from the SGI example programs) to accumulate scanlines from the DVD and concatenate them back into the original artwork. So as the film played, the program ran, unrolling the scanlines in realtime…’

Artwork for 2001's Slit-Screen Sequences

July 21, 2015
[movies] League of Gentlemen Vs. 2001‘Hello Dave!’

June 30, 2015
[web] How Minions Destroyed the Internet … On the rise and rise of Minions … ‘Wait, no, wait I just got it. I figured out their appeal. Minions are basically emoji. They’re yellow, they run the emotional spectrum, they function as a malleable shorthand for almost indescribable feelings. Like, do you know what the nail art emoji means? It means a million different things. So does the prayer hands emoji. (This is an emerging area of academic study.) Okay, so… Minions are emoji with arms, legs, and goggles.’
June 28, 2015
[kubrick] Rejected ‘The Shining’ Poster Designs From Saul Bass, With Stanley Kubrick’s Notes … fascintaing look at Kubrick’s process … ‘While the final result is the iconic, yellow one-sheet, there were a number of iterations, and we can now see the rejected ones. Drawing from different aspects of the film, including the maze, the hotel, and the family unit, there’s some striking imagery, but we can see why Kubrick went with the one he did.’
June 18, 2015
[movies] The Cult of ‘Jurassic Park’ … a look at the long-term fascination with Jurassic Park from academic and amateur fans …

This is getting us close to the soul of Jurassic Park, so I make one last call to Phil Tippett. Phil — an Oscar-winning effects man who helped dream up Jabba the Hutt — was Jurassic Park’s dino-director. Phil says what makes Jurassic Park click is that “it’s a movie from a different age.”

Though we remember it for the effects, Jurassic Park feels … palpable in a way few CGI-loaded movies do today. When the T. rex smushes the Ford Explorer, that’s a real Ford Explorer. When the electric fence topples, that’s a real fence. Richards says perhaps 80 percent of her dinosaur scenes were shot with Winston models, allowing her and Neill and other actors to actually be with the effects.

Fanboy-dom is about something irretrievable, a lost world of childhood. And here, from the age of Avatar, we can see it clearly. Jurassic Park, along with The Abyss (1989) and Terminator 2 (1991), were the stars of an amazing in-between period of summer-movie history. An interesting couple of years between the Analog Era and the Computer Era. We were charging headfirst into the movie future, but we hadn’t quite left the past. Jurassic Park had 55 computer-effects shots; The Phantom Menace, released six years later, had around 2,000.

June 13, 2015
[movies] Christopher Nolan explains Inception’s ending… ‘The film-maker explained that he saw the concept of reality in the film – and real life – as entirely subjective. So DiCaprio’s character doesn’t wait to see if the spinning top drops because he no longer cares to distinguish between a possible harsh reality and a potentially wonderful dream.’

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