Film’s great directors circled up and talked about their craft

Everyone has probably imagined a fictional conversation between history’s greatest leaders, thinkers, or artists. It’s a classic hypothetical situation, but unless you’re in a science fiction story, you can’t assemble centuries of historical figures together. Film is still a young medium, though, and many of the greatest filmmakers are still active. That meeting-of-the-minds can actually … Continue reading “Film’s great directors circled up and talked about their craft”

Everyone has probably imagined a fictional conversation between history’s greatest leaders, thinkers, or artists. It’s a classic hypothetical situation, but unless you’re in a science fiction story, you can’t assemble centuries of historical figures together. Film is still a young medium, though, and many of the greatest filmmakers are still active. That meeting-of-the-minds can actually happen, and The Hollywood Reporter did it.

In the above video, THR‘s Stephen Galloway presides over an hour-long roundtable discussion with some of the best working directors, including Ridley Scott and Quentin Tarantino. Their conversation zigzags across tons of issues in film, from working within studios to the lowest points in their careers. Perhaps the most interesting point of discussion is what Alejandro González Iñárritu calls the disappearance of “middle-class films” that sit halfway between micro-budget indies and blockbusters.

It certainly helped that all these filmmakers had films with skin in the awards circuit, but gathering them for an hour to muse on the state of the film industry is an absolute treat.

Forget Pink Floyd. Watch The Wizard of Oz alphabetically

Supercuts, mashups, and re-edits of popular films are ubiquitous now, and we’ve made a point of only sharing the most interesting of them. We suspect it’ll be difficult to top the absurdity of Of Oz the Wizard, an alphabetical re-cut of The Wizard of Oz. Filmmaker Matt Bucy broke down the 1939 classic apart based … Continue reading “Forget Pink Floyd. Watch The Wizard of Oz alphabetically”

Supercuts, mashups, and re-edits of popular films are ubiquitous now, and we’ve made a point of only sharing the most interesting of them. We suspect it’ll be difficult to top the absurdity of Of Oz the Wizard, an alphabetical re-cut of The Wizard of Oz.

Filmmaker Matt Bucy broke down the 1939 classic apart based on every word spoken, then re-arranged the clips of those words in alphabetical order. (Judgment calls were made for the spelling of verbal noises like gasps, laughs, and so on.) The resulting hour is one of the most surreal videos in recent memory. Repeated words like “dead,” “little,” or “you” can recap scenes – or even the entire movie – at rapid speed.

Thankfully, this extremely silly exercise had a positive effect. Bucy said the process gave him a greater appreciation for the film’s craftsmanship and the economy of the script: The Wizard of Oz uses less than a thousand words, with many (like “liquidated”) only popping up once. That certainly wasn’t the goal going in, but maybe even the most ridiculous of these projects can have a constructive purpose after all.

For those who would prefer to see the film in chronological order, we have multiple copies available in the AU Library (HU DVD 666) .

Star Wars was probably not “brutalizing children” in 1983

With its Disney-fication complete, the Star Wars series has become embraced (or begrudgingly accepted) as a family-friendly sci-fi adventure series. That wasn’t always the case. Not that the series was ever adult or hyper-violent – it was meant for kids! – but at least a few cultural critics still objected. Specifically, watch this bizarre, recently … Continue reading “Star Wars was probably not “brutalizing children” in 1983″

With its Disney-fication complete, the Star Wars series has become embraced (or begrudgingly accepted) as a family-friendly sci-fi adventure series. That wasn’t always the case. Not that the series was ever adult or hyper-violent – it was meant for kids! – but at least a few cultural critics still objected.

Specifically, watch this bizarre, recently popular clip from a 1983 episode of Nightline where film critic John Simon, noted for his acerbic reviews, decries the Star Wars as empty special effects showcases for “stupid children” that stunt growth and encourage violence. His critique is shockingly rude, calling the stars “lousy” and the script “ghastly” while simultaneously insulting Walt Disney’s entire body of work.

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert then provide a terrific counterpoint: “I feel badly,” Siskel says, “that […] John Simon didn’t have a good time at these pictures. That’s too bad for him.” Ebert follows up, agreeing that “it made me laugh. It made me thrilled. And that’s what a movie like this is for.”

There’s no retort to that. Sorry, Simon.

That snottiness aside, the conversation is relatively interesting, especially Siskel’s discussion of whether we should reward films “for aiming low and hitting that mark.” It’s great to see two of the most renowned popular critics defending the gold standard of Hollywood blockbusters.

The Hobbit featurette shows the emotion toll of filmmaking

Campus is mostly deserted today, what with everyone leaving early for Thanksgiving. Enjoy the trip! This happens to be the time of year when courses assign final projects, and for film students, that might mean producing a short or a demo reel. It can be stressful… but you don’t know the agony of filmmaking until … Continue reading “The Hobbit featurette shows the emotion toll of filmmaking”

Campus is mostly deserted today, what with everyone leaving early for Thanksgiving. Enjoy the trip!

This happens to be the time of year when courses assign final projects, and for film students, that might mean producing a short or a demo reel. It can be stressful… but you don’t know the agony of filmmaking until you’ve seen director Peter Jackson behind the scenes on The Hobbit.

BoingBoing recently found seven startling minutes of footage on the Blu-ray of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies showing the improvised, chaotic production of the final chapter of the trilogy. The crew finished sets, costumes, and scripts at the last possible moment, shooting battle scenes with no context and eventually delaying filming for a year. This speaks to the troubled final state of the films, but the most distressing part is Peter Jackson’s visible fatigue.

In every shot, Jackson looks near-death – haggard, sad, tired, and reportedly going on only three hours of sleep a night. At one point, he took an extended lunch break just to figure out how to make the next scenes work. Look at his thousand-yard stare: if The Hobbit didn’t break Jackson, it came close.

So, the film project you’re working on over break will not be as stressful as The Battle of the Five Armies. And it definitely won’t let down Andy Serkis as much.

The ultimate guide to movies with really big worms

There are some recurring hazards in movies that we should be glad not to deal with in real life. Quicksand, for one. Also high on that list are massive, carnivorous worms. For some reason, science fiction and fantasy films love giant worm monsters. We understand that fairly big worms do exist somewhere out in the … Continue reading “The ultimate guide to movies with really big worms”

There are some recurring hazards in movies that we should be glad not to deal with in real life. Quicksand, for one. Also high on that list are massive, carnivorous worms. For some reason, science fiction and fantasy films love giant worm monsters. We understand that fairly big worms do exist somewhere out in the wild, but we rarely have to deal with ones the size of cruise ships.

Should you ever cross paths with a house-eating annelid, Atlas Obscura has created this handy guide to the most memorable worms in movies. This short videos covers a wide range of sizes, all the way up to the Star Wars space slug so big that it was mistaken for a cave. Tremors is always our first thought when it comes to worms in movies, and this is a bizarre reminder that, for whatever reason, deadly super-worms are more common threats than we remembered.

With the exceptions of Labyrinth and The Liar of the White Worm, all the movies featured in this video are available for checkout at the AU Library.

King Kong – HU DVD 1891
Beetlejuice – HU DVD 9030
Men in Black II – HU DVD 11323
Tremors – HU DVD 2811
Dune – HU DVD 6106
The Empire Strikes Back – HU DVD 1644

Night of the Living Dead is getting longer

George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead established many of the zombie tropes we still know and love today, like lumbering speed, the importance of beheading, and parallels to contemporary social issues. Though films before it had undead monsters, Night of the Living Dead might be the first (and arguably still most) culturally significant zombie … Continue reading “Night of the Living Dead is getting longer”

George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead established many of the zombie tropes we still know and love today, like lumbering speed, the importance of beheading, and parallels to contemporary social issues. Though films before it had undead monsters, Night of the Living Dead might be the first (and arguably still most) culturally significant zombie movie. And shockingly, there’s even more of this foundational movie that we’ve never seen before.

At a screening earlier this month, Romero announced that he had discovered an old reel containing nine additional minutes of zombie chaos. Maybe it had been cut to keep the running time trim, but that’s a substantial chunk of one of most influential horror films. Hopefully we’ll see it resurface on the restoration that Romeo was working on or the inevitable Blu-ray release

In the meantime, you don’t need to wait to watch the current version of Night of the Living Dead. As it turns out, the film was never actually copyrighted; it can be streamed from any number of sites and services. We even embedded it above!

Jimmy Stewart takes a detour through Kubricktown

The world has reached peak mashup, with seemingly every television show and movie spliced together with clever editing, so we now only feel compelled to share the really good ones. And one such terrific video has come along featuring a very wary Jimmy Stewart. “The Red Drum Getaway,” published by new film site Gump, features … Continue reading “Jimmy Stewart takes a detour through Kubricktown”

The world has reached peak mashup, with seemingly every television show and movie spliced together with clever editing, so we now only feel compelled to share the really good ones. And one such terrific video has come along featuring a very wary Jimmy Stewart.

“The Red Drum Getaway,” published by new film site Gump, features Jimmy Stewart wandering through a ghostly mish-mosh of director Stanley Kubrick’s creepiest films. Much of the digital editing involved is extremely obvious and artificial-looking, but Stewart’s paranoia and Kubrick’s surreal lingering make a great pair. There’s a particular inspired combination of the most stylized scenes from Vertigo and 2001: A Space Odyssey that we’re surprised no one pieced together earlier.

Now we wish Stewart had starred in a Kubrick film. How surreal would The Shining have been with Mr. Smith as Jack Torrance?

(We should warn that the video includes some footage from the famously explicit Eyes Wide Shut, so use discretion.)

Clap in a circle to mourn the end (?) of fake birthday songs

After a court decision last night, movie and television characters might finally be able to sing “Happy Birthday to You.” The Summy Company contested for decades that it owned the copyright to the universally recognized birthday song and charged productions $10,000 to include its melody and lyrics. No one really wanted to pay all that … Continue reading “Clap in a circle to mourn the end (?) of fake birthday songs”

After a court decision last night, movie and television characters might finally be able to sing “Happy Birthday to You.” The Summy Company contested for decades that it owned the copyright to the universally recognized birthday song and charged productions $10,000 to include its melody and lyrics. No one really wanted to pay all that for an incidental song (with the bizarre exception of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room), so shows and films have made up their own alternative birthday songs to skirt the copyright.

That era might finally be over, but some of those fake jingles are pretty great. A few years back, the Free Music Archive assembled a collection of some of their favorite royalty-free birthday songs into a video, embedded above. There’s some good choices, especially Police Squad!‘s overdubbed choral replacement and Waiting‘s uncomfortable military chant.

But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the greatest omission from that video: “Spirit Formation Journey Anniversary” from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The character Master Shake wrote this bizarre metal dirge in an attempt to replace the original birthday song and claim royalties once it becomes popular at restaurants. It’s a spot-on parody of the ridiculous hoops creative media had to jump to sing a song that effectively belonged to the public.

As with so many cultural references, all these substitute songs are now instantly relics and will be confusing for future generations. Or maybe we’ll have moved on to “Spirit Formation Journey Anniversary” by then.

Hannibal got a rare triple take on the same scene

Media critics widely lamented the cancellation of NBC’s Hannibal this year; the show is considered one of the best adaptations of the iconic serial cannibal series. Non-fans might not understand the appeal since we’ve heard that story several times before, but even for those without an appetite for the antihero doctor might see an exciting … Continue reading “Hannibal got a rare triple take on the same scene”

Media critics widely lamented the cancellation of NBC’s Hannibal this year; the show is considered one of the best adaptations of the iconic serial cannibal series. Non-fans might not understand the appeal since we’ve heard that story several times before, but even for those without an appetite for the antihero doctor might see an exciting film analysis exercise here. The first Hannibal story, Red Dragon, has been portrayed in visual media three times – once as Manhunter, then as Red Dragon, and finally in the third season of Hannibal – which offers a unique opportunity to see the same scenes rewritten by three different creative teams from identical scripts.

HitFix’s Drew McWeeny wnalyzed the differences in-depth, including a clip (embedded above) that crosscuts between all three versions while still telling a cohesive story. It’s rare that the same film is filmed so many times outside of experiments and exercises, let alone the same script, so this is an exceptionally valuable opportunity for anyone who wants to dissect different filmmaking styles or how those styles have evolved over time.

We’ll hop on that wagon that laments the end of the series (we hear good things from our staff), but we’re glad it produced at least one terrific teachable moment for film scholars.

If you want to see what else Bryan Fuller did with this famous character, we currently carry season 1 (HU DVD 14307) and season 2 (HU DVD 14308).

See Vulture’s 2-minute primer on the bottle episode, then watch a few

Bottle episodes have long served as a staple of nearly every TV production – whether for creative or budgetary reasons – but many television fans might not be familiar with the concept. To avoid stealing their thunder, we’ll just recommend that you watch Vulture’s terrific, short primer on the history of bottle episodes and why … Continue reading “See Vulture’s 2-minute primer on the bottle episode, then watch a few”

Bottle episodes have long served as a staple of nearly every TV production – whether for creative or budgetary reasons – but many television fans might not be familiar with the concept. To avoid stealing their thunder, we’ll just recommend that you watch Vulture’s terrific, short primer on the history of bottle episodes and why they’re all-around positive for a show to sprinkle in.

Once you’re caught up, you might want to watch one of the better ones. Below is a list of recommended bottle episodes that show how much you can wring out of one set – many of which appear in that video!

Homicide: Life on the Street: “Three Men and Adena” – HU DVD 2798, Disc 2
Star Trek: “The Naked Time” – HU DVD 6201, Disc 2
Community: “Cooperative Calligraphy” – HU DVD 10002, Disc 2
The Sopranos: “Pine Barrens” – HU DVD 14032, Disc 4
Friends: “The One Where No One’s Ready” – HU DVD 14040, Disc 1
Breaking Bad: “Fly” – HU DVD 14050, Disc 3
The West Wing: “17 People” – HU DVD 14087, Disc 5
Seinfeld: “The Chinese Restaurant” – HU DVD 14133, Disc 2