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The Late Movies: Free, Full-Length Classic Movies on YouTube

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As part of YouTube's entry into the online movie-streaming business, it has created something called OpenFlix -- a collection currently boasting 670 free, full-length movies. As far as I can tell, they're all public domain films -- but some are classics, and worth a look. They all have ads at the beginning and periodically throughout the feature. Many of these are also available (commercial-free, but not in the convenient YouTube format) at Archive.org's Moving Image Archive.

Night Of The Living Dead

"Follows Ben (Duane Jones), Barbra (Judith O'Dea), and five others, who are trapped in a rural farmhouse in Pennsylvania and attempt to survive the night while the house is being attacked by mysteriously reanimated ghouls, otherwise known as zombies." (NOTE: although this is available in 1080p, the video quality isn't real hot. Looks better than the VHS I watched it on as a kid, though.)

Battleship Potemkin

"Inspired by true events, this film tells the story of the riot that occurred on the battleship Potemkin when the crew was given rotten meat for dinner. Their protest soon turns into a riot when the sailors raises the red flag in an attempt to set off a revolution in the port of Odessa."

Man with a Movie Camera

"Original title: Chelovek s kino-apparatom. This experimental film is really three in one: a documentary of a day in the life of the Soviet Union, a documentary of the filming of that documentary and a depiction of an audience watching that documentary. We see the cameraman and the editing of the film, but what we don't see is any of the film itself. With English subtitles." (NOTE: this is a silent film, though there are other versions out there with sound added.)

M

"** IMDB #58 Best Movie Of All Time ** in High Def
M - Eine Stadt sucht einen Moerder (1931)
When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt."

Nanook Of The North

"Widely held as the first anthropological documentary film ever made, it documents a year in the life of an Inuit Eskimo (Nanook) and his family." Hey, it's the Criterion Collection version!

Making a Living (Charlie Chaplin)

"Early Charlie Chaplin Short Film." Also known as "Charlie Chaplin grifts various people in 1914 while sporting a full mustache; hijinks ensue."

Gulliver's Travels

"**Nominated for 2 Oscars ** Animated featured based on the novel by Jonathan Swift. Gulliver lands on Lilliput and tries to prevent war between that tiny kingdom and its equally-miniscule rival, Blefiscu, as well as play matchmaker between the Princess and Prince of the opposing lands. The Lilliputian town crier and general fussbudget Gabby helps him and then doesn't. A dangerous situation arises when Blefiscu spies, Sneak, Snoop, and Snitch, steal Gulliver's pistol."

The Fast and the Furious

No, not that "Fast and the Furious." This is the old (ahem, classic?) one. "Wrongly imprisoned for murder, Frank Webster (John Ireland) breaks out of jail to try and clear his name. With the police in hot pursuit, he's forced to take a beautiful young woman (Dorothy Malone) in a fast sports car hostage. Together they slip into a cross-border car race in an attempt to make it to Mexico before the police catch up."

In The Year 2889

"A group of post atomic war survivors are hunted by cannibalistic human mutants with telepathic powers." WARNING: this is a very bad movie.

(Via the most excellent @brainpicker.)

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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
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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]

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