Showing all posts tagged: video

A big anniversary, twenty five years of The Big Lebowski

17 April 2023

The Big Lebowski, movie poster

It’s not being remade, but it is being re-released. Whether you’re ready or not. The Big Lebowski, trailer, the slapstick comedy crime caper by American filmmaking auteurs, Joel and Ethan Coen, is having a special theatrical re-run in some parts of the world this week. The move marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the film’s release in March 1998.

For those who (somehow) missed it earlier, The Big Lebowski follows a couple of chaotic days in the life of easy-going stoner Jeff “the dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges).

Debt collectors arrive at his house demanding payment of a loan. They quickly realise they’re at the wrong Jeff Lebowski’s place, and leave. But not before damaging some of the dude’s belongings. Upset, the dude tracks down the other Jeff Lebowski, being the “big” Lebowski (David Huddleston), the debt collectors’ actual target, and demands compensation.

When the big Lebowski refuses, the dude steals a rug from his house. Soon after, the big Lebowski receives a ransom note from someone claiming to have kidnapped his wife. He asks the dude to help him find her. Walter (John Goodman), a friend of the dude, who thinks the kidnapping is a sham, hatches a plan for them to keep the ransom money the big Lebowski gave the dude.

Needless to say, the idea turns out to be terrible. Soon rival gangs, the big Lebowski, and the police, are after the dude, his friends, and the million dollar ransom money.

The Coen Brothers said the idea for The Big Lebowski came partly from the work of American-British author Raymond Chandler. The character of the dude, meanwhile, was reputedly inspired by Jeff Dowd, an American film producer, and political activist. While the film did not fare all that well on release — it garnered mixed reviews, and had a relatively modest box office take — The Big Lebowski gained a cult following in later years.

While fans in America will have the chance to see screenings on Sunday 16 April, and Thursday 20 April 2023, in selected cinemas in the United States, Australian fans will need to be a little more patient. And they may have to be prepared to travel. So far, the only upcoming cinema screening I can find of The Big Lebowski in Australia, is at the Wallis Piccadilly, in the South Australian capital, Adelaide, on Friday 28 July 2023.

RELATED CONTENT

, , , ,

Is an alien invasion of Earth imminent asks Kurzgesagt

12 April 2023

The latest feature from Kurzgesagt, those veritable video virtuosos of educational storytelling, explores the possibility of Earth being invaded by an advanced extra-terrestrial civilisation. While Kurzgesagt stresses much of what they present here is speculative, some of the points they raise are nonetheless fascinating.

While this video is based on scientific papers, we are presenting interesting ideas based on little data and lots of extrapolation, so take them with a grain of salt.

Kurzgesagt make the seemingly incredible suggestion that our galaxy, the Milky Way, may one day not be big enough to accommodate all the space faring civilisations that could potentially arise. The notion seems astonishing given the amount of space we’re talking about.

It would take one hundred thousand years to travel from end of the galaxy to the other, assuming we could do so at the speed of light — or who knows, less — if we could travel faster than the speed of light. Still, we’re talking about great volumes of space.

It is also possible humanity is the first technological civilisation to emerge in the Milky Way. This call is made on the basis that there is next to no evidence of the existence of other intelligent lifeforms in the galaxy. This thought is backed up by the Fermi paradox, which asks, if the galaxy is teeming with habitable planets, were are all the extra-terrestrials?

Sufficiently advanced extra-terrestrials would be relatively easy to detect, with the technologies we possess. Their Dyson swarms, their presence in numerous neighbouring star systems, would create blips on the radar, so to speak. That’s not to say there are no other technological civilisations in the galaxy, but if there were, they’re possibly at a similar level of development to ours at the moment.

But intelligent civilisations need significant amounts of time to evolve. The process has taken billions of years on Earth. So while the galaxy seems devoid of space faring civilisations at present, that may change in the next billion or so years, as currently in utero lifeforms grow. Intelligent civilisations also need a stable environment in which to germinate, which Earth, and the Sun, has given us, but some good fortune has been involved in our case.

Kurzgesagt suggests suitably located planets orbiting red dwarf, or M-type stars, which are abundant, provide an ideal environment for intelligent life to develop.

Most stars are red dwarfs that can sustain habitable planets for tens of trillions of years! Life on these planets has an incredibly long time window to appear and pass the hard steps.

Red dwarf stars live for trillions of years, as opposed to billions, for G-type stars such as the Sun. Intelligent life would therefore have more chance of taking hold, as it has plenty of time to do so. On Earth, intelligent life took five billion years to emerge, being half way through the Sun’s approximately ten-billion year lifespan.

But if the process had started any later, it may well have been too late. As the Sun ages, it is becoming warmer, and eventually Earth will be too hot to support life. Humanity, it seems, came along at the right moment. Seen in that context, planets hosted by red dwarfs appear to be the perfect incubator for intelligent life. But things are not that simple: red dwarfs pose their own problems for the emergence of life.

For one, any planets in a red dwarf’s habitable zone, a place where the environment is neither too hot nor too cold, would be tidally locked. This means one side of a planet would permanently face the star, and be exceedingly warm as a result. The other side, meanwhile, would always be shrouded in darkness, and likely too cold for life to thrive.

It has been suggested life could flourish on the day-night terminators of such planets, but this would make for an all too narrow habitable corridor. In addition, red dwarfs also emit radiation flares, which can have the effect of “sterilising” planets in their vicinity, rendering them uninhabitable. That’s not too good. Nor is it conducive for the prevalence of intelligent life.

Given life only spawns in what seems like an extremely slender set of circumstances, an extra-terrestrial invasion may be the one thing we don’t have to worry about. There’s simply no one else out there. Given humanity appears to ascendant then, we have the opportunity, as Kurzgesagt suggests, to carve out our own niche in the galaxy.

RELATED CONTENT

, ,

Beau Is Afraid, a batshit crazy new film with Joaquin Phoenix

10 April 2023

Beau Is Afraid, trailer, is the latest feature by American screenwriter and filmmaker Ari Aster. If there were only one word to sum up Aster’s work, uncomfortable would surely be it. His 2018 debut, Heredity, a supernatural thriller, about a family whose members become possessed by demons, was described as “harrowing” and “disturbing”.

Midsommar, his second feature made in 2020, portrays a couple who find themselves in the grip of a pagan cult. While Midsommar also unsettled audiences, it didn’t enjoy quite the same critical reception as Heredity. The impact Beau Is Afraid has on audiences remains to be seen, but with a billing as “surrealist black comedy horror”, it seems likely to linger in the minds of viewers long after the screening ends.

Beau Is Afraid, a Kafkaesque nightmare comedy

Beau Wassermann (Joaquin Phoenix) is a jittery middle-aged man, who is burdened with self-doubt. He is the son of a domineering mother, and a father he never knew. When his mother dies suddenly, Beau sets off for his childhood home. But the journey he takes is no ordinary one. It is more of an odyssey, a surreal odyssey. He traverses nightmare like dreamscapes, as a boy and an old man, where he comes face to face with his (plentiful) fears and insecurities along the way.

Interestingly, Beau Is Afraid is based on a short film Aster made in 2011 called Beau. Aster’s short is about a middle-aged man who attempts to visit his mother, but is unable to leave home after his house keys mysteriously vanish. Their disappearance sets in motion a sequence of strange and terrifying events. While Beau featured Billy Mayo, Aster has turned to Joaquin Phoenix to portray the troubled lead in Beau Is Afraid.

Joaquin Phoenix, master of the dark streak

A filmmaker would be hard pressed to find a more talented actor to take on the role of the depraved — albeit outwardly mild-mannered — Beau, than Puerto Rican born American actor Phoenix. His work in Todd Phillips’ 2019 feature, Joker, an origin story about Batman’s long-time nemesis, speaks for itself. But Phoenix’s ability to layer darkness upon the characters he portrays came to the fore in 2005’s Walk the Line, James Mangold’s biopic of late American country singer Johnny Cash.

When it comes to drawing out the dark streak in a person, Phoenix might be in his element though when he is the subject. This was the case in the Casey Affleck made mockumentary I’m Still Here, from 2010. Here Phoenix — in collaboration with Affleck — succeeded in making audiences believe he was giving up his acting career to become a hip hop artist. The ruse had credibility after Phoenix had earlier told television host David Letterman this was his intention.

But it was the candid scenes of Phoenix’s private life, while at home, that possibly left a lasting impression on those who saw I’m Still Here. Without spoiling proceedings too much more for those yet to partake, there was plenty that could not be unseen, nor unheard. From the little we’ve seen of Phoenix’s portrayal of Beau so far, calling it a comedic exaggeration and extension of Phoenix’s portrayal of himself in I’m Still Here, may not be too far off the mark.

Beau Is Afraid by Ari Aster, film poster

Beau Is Afraid is not for the faint of heart

Unless, that is, a three hour foray — yes, that’s right, Beau Is Afraid has a run time of almost three hours — of Kafkaesque proportions, into the mind of a disturbed person, is your thing. Quite possibly though Aster’s third feature may have been longer. During a discussion in June 2020, with the Associated Students Program Board, Aster said he was working on a “nightmare comedy” of four hours duration, that, at the time, was named Disappointment Blvd.

Four hours of Kafkaesque nightmare comedy might have been a bit much though. Three hours seemed like a struggle as it was, especially for Phoenix, with reports that he fainted during filming of a particularly intense scene.

When do we get to see this?

Beau Is Afraid had its world premiere at a surprise screening in New York, on Saturday 1 April 2023, in what was something of an April fool’s joke. Attendees were under the impression they were going to see a director’s cut of Midsommar, until Emma Stone, the event’s MC, informed them otherwise.

Beau Is Afraid meanwhile opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday 20 April 2023.

RELATED CONTENT

, , , ,

Sydney Film Festival unveils first twelve films for 2023

5 April 2023

The Sydney Film Festival, now its seventieth year, has announced the first twelve films that will be part of the 2023 program. Afire, trailer, by German filmmaker Christian Petzold, who made the brilliant Barbara in 2012, caught my eye immediately with its storyline, that among other things, includes an out of control bush fire:

Friends Leon (Thomas Schubert) and Felix (Langston Uibel) head to an idyllic seaside holiday home for the summer. They look forward to relaxation, but also must work on their creative projects. Leon will finish the manuscript of his anticipated second novel, while Felix has to complete a photography portfolio. On arrival they find an unexpected guest Nadja (Paula Beer, Undine), whose loud sex with local lifesaver Devid (Enno Trebs) elicits irritation… among other feelings. Soon Leon is smitten with Nadja, and Felix taken with Devid — and the summer holiday is filled with lust, jealousy, competition and creativity. All the while the forest fires, once distant, encroach and grow, leading to a shocking climax.

The full program of the festival will be announced on Wednesday 10 May 2023.

RELATED CONTENT

, , , ,

Asteroid City, a film by Wes Anderson

2 April 2023

After an asteroid buzzed uncomfortably close to Earth several days ago, the trailer for American filmmaker Wes Anderson’s new film, Asteroid City, landed, if you’ll excuse the pun. Does this mean Anderson is psychic, or does he have a knack for — if you’ll excuse another pun — hitting the mark? One thing’s certain though, Anderson has a knack for getting it right with cinema-goers, and Asteroid City, billed as science fiction romantic comedy drama, his eleventh feature, looks to be no exception.

What’s Asteroid City about then?

A widower (Jason Schwartzman) is driving his son Woodrow (Jake Ryan), and three daughters, across the United States to see their grandfather (Tom Hanks), during the summer of 1955. Their car breaks down in a town called Asteroid City, situated in the middle of the Arizona desert. They happen to arrive in time for a stargazers’ convention, held on Asteroid Day, which commemorates the day the Arid Plains Meteorite is said to have struck the area, on 23 September 3007 BCE.

Woodrow is intrigued by the event that draws people from across the world, and wants to stay for it. With their car undergoing repairs, Woodrow’s father calls his grandfather, who reluctantly agrees to come and collect his sisters. The widower and his children are not the only visitors to Asteroid City though. Midge Campbell (Scarlett Johansson), a movie star is also in town. But then strange things begin happening. Loud bangs are heard, and earthquakes rock the town.

Locals begin reporting the presence of extra-terrestrials, and the authorities decide to seal off Asteroid City, until they can figure out what’s going on. Woodrow and his family, along with the other visitors in town, are forced to stay put. It may not be all bad for the reserved, awkward Woodrow though. He’s met a girl, also in town for the stargazers’ convention, and the two seem to feel they share a connection…

For those who in late, Wes Anderson is…

A filmmaker who hails from Houston, Texas. Although Anderson wanted to be a writer, he was always making films. Growing up, Anderson often made homemade films, with his siblings and friends. He also worked as a cinema projectionist while at university. He made his first full length feature Bottle Rocket in 1996, which was based on an earlier short film he’d made with the same name. Three of his works feature on the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.

There are many ways to describe Anderson’s films. Quirky. Eccentric. Whimsical. Vintage. Nostalgic. With an abundance of rich pastel colours, his stories hark back to a world where life was a little simpler, though a dark streak is often ever present. Stylistically, Asteroid City looks to be no different, but if the trailer is anything to go by, Anderson has ramped up the colour saturation, imbuing the story with a truly fairy tale like quality.

As such Asteroid City is par for the Anderson course, and is his first foray into science fiction, with the possible exception of 2018’s Isle of Dogs.

A sci-fi potpourri perhaps?

While the trailer only offers a glimpse of what’s to come, the references to Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Stanley Kubrick, are pretty clear. And after all, how could any Wes Anderson movie with an outer space tack not have a nod to 2001? It remains to be seen whether there are any Star Wars and Star Trek imprints though, but I have a feeling they’ll be in there somewhere.

Asteroid City by Wes Anderson, film poster

The gang’s all here

On top of his distinct film and storytelling style, Anderson usually works with the same writers and actors. He often co-writes screenplays with Jason Schwartzman, who stars in Asteroid City, along with frequently collaborating with Noah Baumbach and Roman Coppola. On screen, regular Anderson standbys include Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, and the aforementioned Scarlett Johansson.

But the large cast features more than just Anderson regulars. Hong Chau, Margot Robbie, Bryan Cranston, Jarvis Cocker, and Sonia Gascón, are also among this ensemble cast of astronomical proportions. Conspicuous by absence though is Bill Murray, who has featured in every Anderson feature except Bottle Rocket. Murray was unable to participate after being diagnosed with Covid, shortly before production commenced. Steve Carell was cast to take Murray’s place instead.

Asteroid City meanwhile is the first Wes Anderson film that Tom Hanks has appeared in.

That’s a wrap, almost…

Despite being set in the Arizona desert, Asteroid City was mostly filmed in Spain, in Chinchón, a town about fifty kilometres to the south east of Madrid. From what I can tell, the Arizona desert sure looks like the Arizona desert, though I’m not sure why Anderson didn’t go for the real thing. Maybe Covid restrictions applying at the time ruled out other locations. Or it could be a matter of convenience, as Anderson lives not too far away in Paris.

I’m also wondering if there’s any significance to the date of Asteroid Day, being 23 September. What’s up with 23 September? It’s probably a totally random date, but I checked for notable past events occurring on 23 September anyway. Encyclopædia Britannica reports American musician John Coltrane was born on that day in 1926, while actor, choreographer, and film director John Fosse died on 23 September, in 1987.

Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud, who devised psychoanalysis, also died that day, in 1939. Perhaps the momentousness of Asteroid Day’s date, if there is one, will come to light at a later time.

Asteroid City is set to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2023, and open in Australian cinemas on Thursday 22 June 2023.

RELATED CONTENT

, , , ,

Ten years of Kurzgesagt and freely available quality content

29 March 2023

It’s been ten years since Philipp Dettmer founded educational science portal Kurzgesagt. To mark the milestone, their latest video looks at Kurzgesagt’s inner workings, and explores how the operation is financed. There may not be too much for science enthusiasts to take away, but this is invaluable learning for content producers.

Kurzgesagt charges nothing for people to access their content. Rather than imposing a paywall, they have developed other revenue streams, including a shop and sponsorships. Readers/viewers are not assailed with ads, or thoroughly annoying popup prompts to subscribe to newsletters, instead leaving the content to be enjoyed at leisure. This is the way to do it.

Thank you Kurzgesagt for the first ten years, and here’s to the next decade.

RELATED CONTENT

, , ,

Amelie was a KGB spy says filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet

22 March 2023

Twenty-one years after he made Amélie, full title The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain, starring Audrey Tautou, the film’s director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has revealed Amélie was actually a KGB spy. He makes the startling admission in a short film, Amelie: the Real Story, which uses scenes from the original 2001 made feature. A master of cunning, our Amélie, but we all knew that.

Did no one ever wonder how a young waitress afforded such sophisticated decoration for a flat in Montmartre, one of Paris’ most expensive districts?

You know, I did wonder, because I wanted to live in apartment exactly like Amélie’s.

RELATED CONTENT

, , ,

The story of the invention of Tetris, a film by Jon S Baird

18 March 2023

There’s a few tech origin-story films around that the moment. The Playlist is about the founding of music streaming service Spotify, while BlackBerry backgrounds the invention of one of the first smartphones, being, obviously, the BlackBerry.

But here’s the one we’ve been waiting for… Tetris, trailer, the story behind the still popular video game’s creation, directed by Scottish filmmaker Jon S. Baird. Nikita Efremov portrays Alexey Pajitnov, the Soviet-born American computer engineer who devised Tetris in 1984, with Taron Egerton as Dutch entrepreneur Henk Rogers, who sought a distribution deal for the game.

It’s all high drama, these start-up stories. So much for plodding away quietly in a suburban garage, bringing the next big thing into being.

RELATED CONTENT

, , ,

Trailer for Class of ’07, by Kacie Anning, with Emily Browning

11 March 2023

A ten year high school reunion goes horribly awry, after a tidal wave transforms the venue into an island, leaving old students of an all-girls school stranded. Will the former school-mates co-operate, or will tensions and rivalries from their school days resurface and overwhelm them?

Emily Browning and Caitlin Stasey, star in the Amazon Prime produced Australian TV series, Class of ’07, trailer, created and directed by Kacie Anning, which goes to air on Friday 17 March 2023.

RELATED CONTENT

, , , ,

State of the (Writing) Nation 2023 presented by Jennifer Down

5 March 2023

The annual State of the (Writing) Nation address was presented on Wednesday 1 March 2023, in conjunction with Writers Victoria and the Wheeler Centre, by Melbourne based Australian author Jennifer Down.

In short, the state of the Australian writing nation is not good. Down, winner of the 2022 Miles Franklin literary award, tells us we “live in a country that does not value the arts”, and “a place where very few people care about books”. Down’s speech is well worth listening to in full.

RELATED CONTENT

, ,