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CanberraFilmFestival.com.au

5 Films That Didn't Deserve Their Razzie Awards

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CanberraFilmFestival.com.au

In 1981, American copywriter and publicist John J.B. Wilson started an annual event that would “honor” the year’s worst movies. (The 2012 nominees were announced earlier this week.) The Golden Raspberry Award, or Razzie, is often seen as a stigma of cinematic mediocrity, but sometimes they get it wrong.

1. The Shining (1980)

Stanley Kubrick may be considered one of the greatest directors of all time, but in 1980, he was nominated for a Razzie for Worst Director for his film The Shining. Prior to its release, fans of Stephen King’s novel eagerly awaited the film adaptation—but Kubrick steered the narrative so far away from the source material that audiences were turned off. (King wasn't pleased, either.) The Shining received a mixed critical response for not being a conventional horror film, and it was nominated for two Razzies.

When The Shining was released on VHS, however, critics immediately re-assessed it: Roger Ebert said it was one of the greatest horror films ever made, calling it “strangely disturbing.” Today, there are numerous interpretations of The Shining, many of them documented in the film Room 237 which attempts to uncover the true meaning behind Kubrick’s vision.

2. Newsies (1992)

In 1992, Disney was soaring high with the success of their animated musicals—so they commissioned choreographer and director Kenny Ortega to helm Newsies, based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899. Critics and audiences didn’t take to the film’s 19th century New York backdrop, musical numbers, and workers' rights narrative. Considered one of Disney’s biggest flops at the time, the film received five Razzie nominations, including Worst Picture and Worst Director.

Twenty years later, the film has been fully embraced by theatergoers and was adapted as a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical in 2012.

3. Ishtar (1987)

One of the biggest cinematic failures of the past 30 years, Ishtar became synonymous with the term “box office flop.” Critics panned the story of two failed singer-songwriters who unwittingly start a revolution in the fictional country called Ishtar. The film suffered from an over-bloated budget and Warren Beatty’s ego; in turn, it was nominated for three Razzies, and Elaine May received the Worst Director Award.

Unfortunately, May never directed another movie, despite her future accolades including her Oscar-nominated screenplay Primary Colors. Now, Ishtar is viewed as a biting and witty satire, considered ahead of its time; its view of Middle Eastern politics is surprisingly relevant today. Ishtar has yet to receive a proper DVD release, but rumors persist of future Criterion Collection consideration.

4. Showgirls (1995)

Director Paul Verhoeven is considered a master genre filmmaker, but in 1995, his reputation in Hollywood came into question with the release of the infamous Showgirls. The film is legendary for its bad acting, silly storyline, and dreadful dialogue (though the director claimed it was intentional); the film was nominated for 13 Razzies, and Verhoeven took home the Worst Director Award. He was the first and only director to accept it in person.

Today, many notable film critics and directors, including Jonathan Rosenbaum, J. Hoberman, and Quentin Tarantino, have re-evaluated and defended Showgirls as a serious satire of the trappings of Hollywood and celebrity. The film is also seen as a cult classic for its crude and vulgar subject matter and wry sense of humor.

5. Heaven’s Gate (1981)

Possibly the most notorious movie of all time, director Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate was responsible for bankrupting United Artists in 1981. The film’s $44 million budget ($122 million today) grew out of Cimino’s inability to reduce his vision. Critics waited to pan this film when reports of the director’s eccentric personality and the film’s 219-minute running time emerged.

United Artists later fired Cimino and cut the film down to a digestible 149-minute version. Grossing only $3 million ($10 million today), Heaven’s Gate became more than a box office flop—it became a fiasco. It was eventually nominated for five Razzies, and Cimino received the Worst Director Award.

Today, the Director’s Cut has received a small renaissance with a special screening at the New York Film Festival and a release and restoration by the prestigious Criterion Collection. While it remains controversial and polarizing, Heaven’s Gate is now considered a supreme achievement of Hollywood cinema.

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For whatever reason, audiences and critics didn’t take to these movies when they were released. But with time, these films have come to be seen as misunderstood. So please remain dubious when someone calls a movie “the worst of the year.” Good movies are in the eye of the beholder.

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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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