Annotated Cinema: The Prequel!

Ed note: Here's a new idea from the All-Star Summer Interns. They're taking a movie everyone can easily find in their collection and developing an annotated "guide" to go with it. Each intern will watch the flick, find behind-the-scenes info and facts about the people, places, and things in the movie, and then compile their findings (along with timestamps and movie stills) in a post or pdf. Think of it as a factual Mystery Science Theater-style commentary, or an off-screen Pop-Up Video.

For an example of the sort of information they'll be covering, intern superstar Ben Smith did a test run with a recent Youtube hit after the jump. Enjoy!


Love in This Club (as performed by the Rockafire Explosion)


  • The Rockafire Explosion was the in-house animatronic band for Showbiz Pizza locations in the 1980s and early 1990s. What made this particular show rise above the handful of other similar shows of the time were its size, construction, and programming. The "performers" took up the entire length of the Showbiz Pizza showroom, and unlike cloth and foam models (like at competitor Chuck E. Cheese), the faces of the characters were made with latex to provide more realistic movement.
  • The company that developed the animatronics used in the Rockafire Explosion also created Whack-a-Mole
  • The shows were originally programmed with reel-to-reel audio tapes with 4 tracks of audio, 2 with the performances and two with the data needed to move the characters, although the characters are now programmed with a modified Tivo. A song like "Love in this Club" usually takes about a week of programming to fully complete.
  • MGMT's video for "Electric Feel" features the Rockafire Band in a few scenes
  • Love in this Club rocketed from #51 to #1 in its third week, giving it the fourth highest jump of all-time, behind Maroon 5's "Makes Me Wonder" (which jumped from 64 to 1), Rihanna's "Take a Bow" (53 to 1) and Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This" (52 to 1)
  • Nolan Bushnell, one of the founders of Atari, created the Chuck E. Cheese concept and developed the chain as a way to distribute Atari games. In the early 90s, after Showbiz and Chuck E. Cheese's had merged, the restaurants started to phase out the animatronics in favor of "unifying concepts" and focusing on video games.
  • 1:09--Cheerleaders were originally all male
  • Lawrence Herkimer made many cheerleading innovations or improvements, such as "pom-pons," "spirits sticks," and "booster ribbons." He founded the National Cheerleader's Association and formed a Dallas company to produce cheerleading products. He is also credited with creating the "herkie" jump
  • In England, usher is a now obselete name for a schoolmaster, and the word comes from the french "huissier"
  • The original programmer of the Rockafire Explosion, Aaron Fecter, is responsible for the choreography on the youtube videos. Song requests can be made on his website for the project.
  • Usher syndrome, also known as Hallgren syndrome, is one of the leading causes of deaf-blindness.
  • 2:32--Ventriloquism as we know it began in the days of vaudeville in the late 19th century
  • Shari Lewis debuted Lambchop on the Captain Kangaroo show after she was asked to bring something other than the wooden figures she usually used.

So now that you've gotten a taste of what we're looking to do, here's where you come in: We're trying to pick a movie for the second full installment of Annotated Cinema (the first will be a favorite of all three of us, John Hughes' The Breakfast Club). Between the three of us we've suggested everything from Cool Hand Luke to Young Frankenstein. Let us know in the comments what you'd like to see in future installments, both in choice of movie and commentary.

10 Things We Know About The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2

Though Hulu has been producing original content for more than five years now, 2017 turned out to be a banner year for the streaming network with the debut of The Handmaid’s Tale on April 26, 2017. The dystopian drama, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, imagines a future in which a theocratic regime known as Gilead has taken over the United States and enslaved fertile women so that the group’s most powerful couples can procreate.

If it all sounds rather bleak, that’s because it is—but it’s also one of the most impressive new series to arrive in years (as evidenced by the slew of awards it has won, including eight Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards). Fortunately, fans left wanting more don’t have that much longer to wait, as season two will premiere on Hulu in April. In the meantime, here’s everything we know about The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season.


When The Handmaid’s Tale returns on April 25, 2018, Hulu will release the first two of its 13 new episodes on premiere night, then drop another new episode every Wednesday.


Fans of Atwood’s novel who didn’t like that season one went beyond the original source material are in for some more disappointment in season two, as the narrative will again go beyond the scope of what Atwood covered. But creator/showrunner Bruce Miller doesn’t necessarily agree with the criticism they received in season one.

“People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really," Miller told Newsweek. "The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. We're not going beyond the novel. We're just covering territory [Atwood] covered quickly, a bit more slowly.”

Even more importantly, Miller's got Atwood on his side. The author serves as a consulting producer on the show, and the title isn’t an honorary one. For Miller, Atwood’s input is essential to shaping the show, particularly as it veers off into new territories. And they were already thinking about season two while shooting season one. “Margaret and I had started to talk about the shape of season two halfway through the first [season],” he told Entertainment Weekly.

In fact, Miller said that when he first began working on the show, he sketched out a full 10 seasons worth of storylines. “That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this,” he said.


As with season one, motherhood is a key theme in the series. And June/Offred’s pregnancy will be one of the main plotlines. “So much of [Season 2] is about motherhood,” Elisabeth Moss said during the Television Critics Association press tour. “Bruce and I always talked about the impending birth of this child that’s growing inside her as a bit of a ticking time bomb, and the complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into. And then, you know, if she does have the baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother. So, obviously, it’s very complicated and makes for good drama. But, it’s a very big part of this season, and it gets bigger and bigger as the show goes on.”


Just because June is pregnant, don’t expect her to sit on the sidelines as the resistance to Gilead continues. “There is more than one way to resist," Moss said. “There is resistance within [June], and that is a big part of this season.”


A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'

Miller, understandably, isn’t eager to share too many details about the new season. “I’m not being cagey!” he swore to Entertainment Weekly. “I just want the viewers to experience it for themselves!” What he did confirm is that the new season will bring us to the colonies—reportedly in episode two—and show what life is like for those who have been sent there.

It will also delve further into what life is like for the refugees who managed to escape Gilead, like Luke and Moira.


Though she won’t be a regular cast member, Miller recently announced that Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will make a guest appearance in the new season’s second episode. Yes, the one that will show us the Colonies. In fact, that’s where we’ll meet her; Tomei is playing the wife of a Commander.


As a group shrouded in secrecy, we still don’t know much about how and where Gilead began. That will change a bit in season two. When discussing some of the questions viewers will have answered, executive producer Warren Littlefield promised that, "How did Gilead come about? How did this happen?” would be two of them. “We get to follow the historical creation of this world,” he said.


A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'

While Miller wouldn’t talk about who the handmaids are mourning in a teaser shot from season two that shows a handmaid’s funeral, he was excited to talk about creating the look for the scene. “Everything from the design of their costumes to the way they look is so chilling,” Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “These scenes that are so beautiful, while set in such a terrible place, provide the kind of contrast that makes me happy.”


Like season one, Miller says that The Handmaid’s Tale's second season will again balance its darker, dystopian themes with glimpses of hopefulness. “I think the first season had very difficult things, and very hopeful things, and I think this season is exactly the same way,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “There come some surprising moments of real hope and victory, and strength, that come from surprising places.”

Moss, however, has a different opinion. “It's a dark season,” she told reporters at TCA. “I would say arguably it's darker than Season 1—if that's possible.”


A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'

When pressed about how the teaser images for the new season seemed to feature a lot of blood, Miller conceded: “Oh gosh, yeah. There may be a little more blood this season.”

NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]


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