5 Mind-Numbingly Long Movies

Although you might think Andy Luttrell is majoring in film, you'd be wrong. He's a sophomore psych major at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill. Not only can Eastern Illinois claim Andy as a future alum, they also get to claim John Malkovich; Tony Romo and not one, not two, but three NFL head coaches - the Denver Broncos' Mike Shanahan, the New Orleans Saints' Sean Payton and the Minnesota Vikings' Brad Childress. -Stacy Conradt

5 Mind-Numbingly Long Movies
by Andy Luttrell

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I'm sure I won't single myself out if I admit that I've seen all three Lord of the Rings films back to back to back"¦yes, the extended editions. That's more than eleven hours in a row in front of a screen. Though Peter Jackson's films are long (a late-night showing of King Kong was a bad idea), some filmmakers have had the gall to produce even longer ones.

So in celebration of excruciatingly lengthy cinema, here are five horribly long films that put Mr. Jackson to shame.

1. The Cure for Insomnia
5220 min (87 hours)
United States, 1987

lee.jpgThe next time you've got four days straight of nothing to do, go ahead and pick up The Cure for Insomnia. Unfortunately, Amazon.com doesn't seem to carry it"¦I guess they're still recording the director's commentary.

The movie was shot on video by director John Henry Timmis IV and doesn't have any plot. Rather, the movie stars artist Lee Groban reading his epic poem, "The Cure for Insomnia," which is a 5,000 page work of art that Groban says he wrote almost entirely by hand. You can read an excerpt here. If the movie is anything like the excerpt, I'm sure it's riveting. Apparently, footage of the poetry reading is spliced with clips of heavy metal and pornographic material.

The purpose of the movie—yes there's a reason for this nonsense to exist—is to be so boring that it would put its viewers to sleep. It was first played in its entirety at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and holds the Guinness World Record for "World's Longest Movie."

2. The Longest Most Meaningless Movie in the World
2880 min (48 hours)
United Kingdom, 1970

Here's a movie that gets right to the point"¦ that it doesn't have one. Produced by Anthony Scott and directed by Vincent Patouillard, TLMMMitW was screened only once in its entirety in 1970 at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris. After its initial release, the film was cut to a more palatable 90 minutes. While it was no longer quite so long, it remained just as meaningless seeing as the film is nothing more than an endless presentation of newsreel and stock footage. I've wasted a lot of time in my life, but the ambition to create the longest, most meaningless movie in the world makes you question this fella's priorities.

3. The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple
1620 min (27 hours)
China, 1928

red_lotus.jpgFinally we get to a film with a plot! The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple is a Chinese silent film directed by Zhang Shichuan. The film is based on a novel that was based on a newspaper series (that must have been based on something else). It tells the story of rescuing a commander trapped in the Red Lotus Temple "“ a temple tricked out with lethal traps like fire-spitting Buddhas and spiked floors. Sounds kind of like my dream house.

Though the film is really 27 hours long, it was released in a series of eighteen installments. I don't care how good your story is; you don't have my attention for 27 hours. Well, now that I think about it, I did watch the first three seasons of Lost (more than fifty hours of material) last summer"¦but at least Lost has dialogue.

4. The Journey
873 min (14.5 hours)
Sweden, 1987

Considered one of the longest documentaries to date, Peter Watkin's The Journey (sometimes referred to as Resan) explores the subject of nuclear warfare. Watkins spends time with families and nongovernmental organizations from the United States, Canada, Norway, Scotland, France, West Germany, Mozambique, Japan, Australia, Tahiti, and Mexico to discover the public's opinions regarding nuclear weapons, military spending, and poverty. The film presents stories told by World War II bomb survivors and dramatizations of evacuation procedures.

The Journey has found its place in New Zealand where it is sometimes used in high schools and other educational programs. One New Zealander said of the film: "14½ hours is just long enough to let a picture of the real people involved sink in. Was surprised at my ability to stay awake through a movie with no plot, suspense, etc. "“ decided I could because it was about real life, people, and opinions I recognised."

5. War and Peace
484 min (8 hours)
Russia, 1968

war-peace.jpgIf you're just itching to watch one of these notoriously long movies, you can get War and Peace on DVD to hold you over until the 450-disc The Cure for Insomnia: Collector's Edition is released. With the original Russian version clocking in at just over eight hours, it's significantly shorter than the aforementioned films, but you still could have gotten a full night's sleep instead. Based on the infamous Tolstoy novel, War and Peace was directed by Sergei Bondarchuk, produced with full cooperation of the Soviet Union, and took seven years to make. The work paid off, though, when this eight-hour epic won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1969.

While it may not be the longest movie ever, War and Peace still holds a number of records. With a production cost of $560 million (in today's dollars), the film is the most expensive one ever produced; it received a Guinness World Record for being the longest film broadcast on T.V.; and finally, the film ranks fourth in most-extras-ever with a startling 120,000 (Gandhi, with 300,000 extras, will be tough to top.)

Following in Woody Allen's footsteps, I decided to watch the film in fast-forward. All I can tell you is that it involves Russia.

Check out the rest of our College Weekend festivities.

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Zach Hyman, HBO
10 Bizarre Sesame Street Fan Theories
Zach Hyman, HBO
Zach Hyman, HBO

Sesame Street has been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.

1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.

According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.

2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.

Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.

3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.

Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.

4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.

Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.

5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.

Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?

According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.

6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.

Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.

7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.

Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.

8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.

Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.

9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.

Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.

10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.

Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.

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iStock
A New App Interprets Sign Language for the Amazon Echo
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iStock

The convenience of the Amazon Echo smart speaker only goes so far. Without any sort of visual interface, the voice-activated home assistant isn't very useful for deaf people—Alexa only understands three languages, none of which are American Sign Language. But Fast Company reports that one programmer has invented an ingenious system that allows the Echo to communicate visually.

Abhishek Singh's new artificial intelligence app acts as an interpreter between deaf people and Alexa. For it to work, users must sign at a web cam that's connected to a computer. The app translates the ASL signs from the webcam into text and reads it aloud for Alexa to hear. When Alexa talks back, the app generates a text version of the response for the user to read.

Singh had to teach his system ASL himself by signing various words at his web cam repeatedly. Working within the machine-learning platform Tensorflow, the AI program eventually collected enough data to recognize the meaning of certain gestures automatically.

While Amazon does have two smart home devices with screens—the Echo Show and Echo Spot—for now, Singh's app is one of the best options out there for signers using voice assistants that don't have visual components. He plans to make the code open-source and share his full methodology in order to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Watch his demo in the video below.

[h/t Fast Company]

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