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Best Posters of the Year: the Keyart Awards

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The Keyart Awards are like the Oscars for movie posters and trailers, and this June they'll be given out for the 38th time. If you're wondering why posters and trailers need their own awards -- especially since some of the nominees are themselves ads for film festivals or film awards ceremonies -- just take a look at some of this year's nominees, and I think you'll see why. Great movie marketing really is an art form unto itself, and some of the best work done in a given year only gets seen by a small segment of the population -- or in the case of our first nominated example, only by whoever drove down Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard a few weeks before Pineapple Express came out last year.

Nominated in the "outdoor advertising" category, this poster literally smokes (the movie's about potheads, get it?). There's a video of the poster smoking, which I would've embedded here except that whoever took the video was so blown away by the poster that the video's soundtrack is just the guy and his friends dropping exclamatory f-bombs. (The "smoke," by the way, is just eco-friendly steam; we've got enough real smoke billowing in this city as it is.)
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This next one's a teaser poster for Punisher: War Zone (nominated for the "in-theater print" category). This wasn't created in Photoshop, by the way -- I've seen the actual model for this shot, and it's a piece of sheet metal that someone artistically riddled with high-caliber bullet-holes. Pretty cool, right?

If you don't know why this Religulous poster is hilarious, you just haven't been paying attention:

This "guerrilla" marketing image for Rambo was created to look like graffiti-artist stencil, and part of the marketing campaign was indeed to stencil this image all over LA as if Stallone were the new "Obey" giant. Definitely an unusual way to get butts in theater seats -- but it worked.

There's a "horror poster" category, of course, and one of my favorite nominees is the Ruins poster. It's a movie about some American teenagers on vacation in Mexico who are murdered one by one at some creepy old Mayan ruins, and even though the plot is anything but subtle, I love the subtle way that the poster suggests the shape of a Mayan temple without actually showing one -- kind of like the famous old woman/young woman trick image.

27 Dresses was not my favorite movie of the year by any stretch, but I like the way this nominee for "best comedy poster" creates Katherine Heigl's dress out of handwritten text. Thanks to this, I'm sure word-clothes will be all the rage in Milan next season.

There's also a category for "best standee display," which are the big, increasingly complex cardboard contraptions you see displayed in movie theater lobbies. Here's a video of one of the standee nominees, The Spirit:

Here's a complete list of the nominees, which include movie trailers as well as posters, and lots of other things like home video packaging, trailer motion graphics and copylines (you know, like "in space, no one can hear you scream!")

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]