Twinned Movies

Someone has done a fantastic job of [pairing the posters of movies]( that came out at the same time, often in the same year, that would appear to be on much the same topic. The pairings are:

* 1986: _Top Gun_ and _Iron Eagle_
* 1989: _Abyss_ and _Leviathan_
* 1989: _Turner and Hooch_ and _K-9_
* 1993/1994: _Tombstone_ and _Wyatt Earp_
* 1993/1994: _Rookie of the Year_ and _Little Big League_
* 1995: _Babe_ and _Gordy_
* 1995/1996: _Powder_ and _Phenomenon_
* 1995/1996: _Showgirls_ and _Striptease_
* 1997: _Volcano_ and _Dante’s Peak_
* 1998: _Antz_ and _A Bug’s Life_
* 1998: _Armageddon_ and _Deep Impact_
* 1998/1999: _The Truman Show_ and _Ed TV_
* 1999/2001: _Centennial Man_ and _A.I._
* 2000: _Red Planet_ and _Mission to Mars_
* 2002: _Stealing Harvard_ and _Orange County_
* 2003/2004: _Finding Nemow_ and _Shark Tale_
* 2004: _Chasing Liberty_ and _First Daughter_
* 2005: _The Cave_ and _The Descent_
* 2005/2006: _Wild_ and _Madagascar_
* 2006: _Capote_ and _Infamous_
* 2006: _The Prestige_ and _The Illusionist_
* 2006: _Open Season_ and _Over the Hedge_
* 2006/2007: _Happy Feet_ and _Surf’s Up_
* 2008/2012: _Taken_ and _Stolen_
* 2009: _Observe and Report_ and _Mall Cop_
* 2010: _Megamind_ and _Despicable Me_
* 2011: _Friends with Benefits_ and _No Strings Attached_
* 2012: _Mirror Mirror_ and _Snow White and the Huntsman_
* 2013: _After Earth_ and _Oblivion_
* 2013: _Olympus Has Fallen_ and _White House Down_

Given such a history, the question then is how much of this is zeitgeist and how much is the fact that scripts probably circulate somewhat widely and people see something in a script on which they pass that then gets them thinking about a version of the story on their own. We don’t need to assume outright copying at all. Or, alternatively, if we assume copying, it’s still the case that there is something larger, be “the times being what they are” or the marketplace, has increased the viability of certain projects / topics over others.

And, yes, I can even see being this objective in my own recent experience of discovering a parallel project to my own, but I’ll have more to say on that a little later — I’m working on a post tentatively entitled *On Credit*.

Hitchcock’s First Film is Free to Watch

Alfred Hitchcock wrote “A White Shadow” in 1924. The National Film Preservation Foundation has managed to find a copy, and has generously made it available for any and all with a decent Internet connection to [watch][]. A 24-year-old Hitchcock also served as assistant director for the 1924 movie, which was recovered back in August from New Zealand collector Jack Murtagh — who in his lifetime amassed one of the largest libraries in the country. Sadly you’re in for an incomplete viewing: only three of six reels (totaling 43 minutes) have managed to survived the decades since White Shadow’s release.


Roger Ebert has [six documentary films by Werner Herzog]( that are all available for streaming. The quality is not great, but you still get a chance to see what Herzog is up to in a nonfictional setting.

[Rear Window Timelapse.]( Jeff Desom has not only compressed the film into two minutes, but he has also set everything in the constant frame of the view from the window: really, just watch the first fifteen seconds to see what he does here. It’s brilliant.

As usual Kottke comes up with some of the most amazing finds. Not the best documentary work in the world, though I do appreciate the good short, but, ahhhhh … Paris. (See also his [link to a rant][rant] by a piano repairman about the decline in quality of pianos.)


Texas Farm, 1952

[Texas Farm, 1952]( This stuff is just amazing. The glimpse it gives you into the past. This is a collection of color film reels, without sound, taken by an amateur filmmaker — it appears to be the farmer himself.

Farmer Browne, 1942

[Henry Browne, Farmer (1942)]( More great stuff from the Prelinger Archives on Amazing document of farming of the era. Farmer Browne is African American, but that is not the focus of the film.

Errol Morris’ “Interrotron”

Tag this with: “kind of cool, kind of creepy.” I had to study the diagram for a while to make sure my first impression was correct: this is simply a revision of the teleprompter allowing the interviewer to ask questions but making it possible for the person being interviewed to look directly into the camera. It used to be that directors or interviewers sat right next to the camera lens, but this still led the subjects of an interview to look slightly off camera. I guess this works on the direct eye contact level but I wonder if it doesn’t drain a bit of the human warmth out of the interview process.

That is, this may lead to better television but poorer documentation. Individual filmmakers, and audiences, will have to decide which they prefer — and the usual caveat should be added here that this has to be on a project by project basis or otherwise it becomes yet another technology in the long string of technologies that amount to “realistic” within a given era.

Interrotron web page

Review of Errol Morris’ “Tabloid”

Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir has a terrific review of Errol Morris’ latest film “Tabloid.” It does what good, no great, reviews do: it addresses directly the larger issues as the context in which to understand the work being reviewed. Here’s an example of what I mean:

Morris has frequently, and accurately, been described as a filmmaker who is fascinated with epistemology, the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and limits of human knowledge. He’s also sometimes been called a postmodernist who denies or elides the distinction between truth and fiction, and that’s a charge he has always forcefully rejected. (From a recent Morris tweet: “Compare. Hamlet kills Claudius v. I kill you.”) After all, his most famous film, “The Thin Blue Line,” clearly articulated the thesis that a Texas Death Row inmate named Randall Dale Adams was innocent of the murder for which he had been convicted, and indirectly resulted in Adams’ exoneration and release. Morris sees truth as maddeningly difficult to find or to recognize, and believes that human stupidity and vanity and self-deception often prevent us from seeing it. He even suggests that at certain moments truth may be situationally unknowable, as in the lessons on America’s failure in Vietnam delivered by the war’s chief architect, Robert S. McNamara, in Morris’ Oscar-winning¬†“The Fog of War.”¬†But that’s quite a different matter from claiming that truth does not exist or is entirely relative.

Stay Inside My Aura

I have always had a soft spot for the film _Zardoz_, which, to be honest, is simply a mess. It’s like watching the early television versions of _On Her Majesty’s Secret Service_ when they had gotten the reels out of order. Or maybe it’s like watching the second _Planet of the Apes_ movie: you keep waiting for it to make sense, but then the ending comes and … nothing.

Still, the idea of a future world drawn out of _The Wizard of Oz_ always gets me. Apparently I am not alone in my weakness for the film: Ryan Britt has a lovely piece on Tor’s website that reveals his own fascination.

Douglas Trumbull

If you are at all a fan of science fiction, especially scifi films, then you owe it to yourself to set aside ten minutes to visit [Douglas Trumbull’s home page]( to watch the video that compiles his lifetime of amazing cinematic feats and accomplishments. He narrates it and, given what he’s done, his use of the first person — e.g., “And then I invented this.” — is rather interesting.