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10 Movies that Oscar Nominees Would Rather Forget

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AVClub

Daniel Day-Lewis has one. Robert De Niro, too. So do Anne Hathaway and Bradley Cooper.

Every actor—yes, even those nominated for Hollywood’s highest honor—has a turkey in his or her (custom-designed) closet. Whether said thespian wants to admit it is another story: Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley has kept mum on his reasons for playing the flatulence-prone sex guru Tugginmypudha in the rightfully maligned The Love Guru, while 14-time nominee Warren Beatty has repeatedly gone on the record to defend his legendary 1987 bomb, Ishtar. In 1991, Beatty told Entertainment Weekly that “Ishtar is a very good, not very big, comedy, made by a brilliant woman. And I think it's funny.”

But like recreational drug use, badmouthing one’s own not-so-stellar oeuvre has become a popular pastime in Hollywood. Here’s a list of 10 Oscar-nominated actors who weren’t afraid to spray a little venom (we've edited some of it to make it safe for work!) at the films they’d like to erase from their resumes.

1. Brad Pitt, The Devil’s Own (1997)

In February of 1997, eight weeks before its premiere, Brad Pitt shared his disappointment about Alan Pakula’s IRA thriller with Newsweek. “We had no script,” declared the now four-time (then one-time) Oscar nominee. “Well, we had a great script but it got tossed for various reasons. To have to make something up as you go along—Jesus, what pressure! It was ridiculous. It was the most irresponsible bit of filmmaking—if you can even call it that—that I've ever seen.” Wait, has he not seen Cool World?

2. George Clooney, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988)

George Clooney’s likability factor seems to improve with age. And his occasional jabs at his own movies—most notably Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin—only add to his Everyman persona. But the eight-time Oscar nominee’s turn as the Caped Crusader has got nothing on his role in this late-’80s camp-fest! At Newsweek’s 2012 Oscar roundtable, Clooney talked about the dangers of acting for money: “As an actor all bets are off if you need money,” he declared. “I've done really [crappy] movies or [crappy] jobs when I was broke, and people go, ‘Why did you do Return of the Killer Tomatoes?’ Because I got the job!”

3. Michael Caine, Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

Maybe it’s the English accent, but few people pan their own films as entertainingly as Michael Caine. And while the six-time Oscar nominee has seen his career resurrected in recent years, thanks in large part to Christopher Nolan, the decades haven’t always been so kind to Sir Michael. The 1980s were a particularly odd time, as they saw Caine regularly transitioning from fantastic roles to atrocious ones. Case in point: in 1986 Caine was too busy shooting the fourth film in the Jaws franchise to accept his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters. In his 1992 autobiography, What’s It All About, Caine wrote of Jaws: The Revenge: “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”

4. Halle Berry, Catwoman (2004)

Three years after winning an Oscar for the indie hit Monster’s Ball, Halle Berry donned the famous catsuit to star in this well-known bomb. And she played the role of good sport months later when she actually showed up to collect her Razzie Award for Worst Actress for the film, wherein she told the crowd: “You know, I’ve got so many people to thank, because you don’t win a Razzie without a lot of help from a lot of people... First of all, I want to thank Warner Bros. Thank you for putting me in a piece of [crap], god-awful movie. You know, it was just what my career needed, you know? I was at the top, and then Catwoman just plummeted me to the bottom.” No one involved—not Berry’s manager, agent, lawyers and acting coach, nor the film’s writers, cast and director—escaped her wrath.

5. Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music (1965)

The film that made Christopher Plummer a household name is the one he’d like to pretend doesn’t exist. At different times he’s referred to it as “The Sound of Mucus,” “S&M” or simply “that movie.” In 2010, he told The Boston Globe , “I was a bit bored with the character. Although we worked hard enough to make him interesting, it was a bit like flogging a dead horse. And the subject matter is not mine. I mean it can’t appeal to every person in the world. It’s not my cup of tea.’’

6. Julia Roberts, I Love Trouble (1994)

Julia Roberts did not earn her “America’s Sweetheart” moniker by being difficult. But Nick Nolte wouldn’t know that. The two actors—each three-time Oscar nominees—fell way short of Hepburn/Tracy expectations when they teamed up for this fast-talking rom-com. It wasn’t long before the press got wind of the dueling actors’ on-set antics. While her PR team tried to do damage control, Roberts couldn’t keep herself from making some thinly masked digs at her co-star. In a 1993 interview, she told The New York Times, “From the moment I met him we sort of gave each other a hard time and naturally we get on each other's nerves. [While he can be] completely charming and very nice, he's also completely disgusting. He's going to hate me for saying this, but he seems go out of his way to repel people. He's a kick.” The film, unsurprisingly, repelled audiences and critics alike.

7. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Bros. (1993)

For anyone who doesn’t understand the cultural differences between Hollywood actors and British ones, behold Bob Hoskins. When the topic turns to Super Mario Bros., the recently retired Oscar nominee makes no attempt to hide his ire. In 2007, The Guardian quoted him as saying, “The worst thing I ever did? Super Mario Bros. It was a [freaking] nightmare. The whole experience was a nightmare. It had a husband-and-wife team directing, whose arrogance had been mistaken for talent. After so many weeks their own agent told them to get off the set!”

One year later, Hoskins’ Super Mario Bros. co-star—two-time Oscar nominee Dennis Hopper—got in on the bashing action. When asked about his biggest disappointment, on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Hopper said that “I made a picture called Super Mario Bros., and my 6-year-old son at the time—he's now 18—said, ‘Dad I think you're probably a pretty good actor, but why did you play that terrible guy King Koopa in Super Mario Bros.?’ And I said, 'Well Henry, I did that so you could have shoes.' And he said, 'Dad, I don't need shoes that badly.’”

8. Gwyneth Paltrow, View From the Top (2003)

She may get a lot of flak for her lifestyle blog, "Goop," but when it comes to picking the right roles, Gwyneth Paltrow has made very few missteps. The two exceptions, according to the actress, are Shallow Hal and this high-flying stewardess comedy. Calling it “shite” in a 2006 interview with The Guardian, Paltrow refers to the film as "this terrible movie called View From the Top that Harvey Weinstein talked me into doing.”

9. Gary Oldman, Tiptoes (2003)

What’s that? You’ve never heard of Tiptoes? The 2003 straight-to-DVD flick in which Gary Oldman and Matthew McConaughey star as brothers, one of them normal-sized (McConaughey) and one of them a little person (Oldman)? The one where Oldman played the role on his knees in order to achieve the height disparity? Perhaps that’s because few of the actors have ever spoken publicly about it. Including Oldman. And with good reason. But in March 2012, the New York Times managed to get a few words from Tiptoes co-star Peter Dinklage. “Oh, that movie,” he said, shaking his head. “That was something… It was sort of an amazing idea for a movie, but the result was what we were fighting against—the cutesiness of little people.”

10. Mickey Rourke, Passion Play (2010)

Truth be told, it’s probably more surprising that Mickey Rourke touts the “Oscar-nominated” title before his name than that he has done his fair share of badmouthing his own movies. After all, this is the man who gave up his career as a Hollywood hunk to get his face beaten in for a living. But in 2011, Rourke opened up to New York Magazine about his many failed cinematic efforts. When asked about Passion Play, the movie he had recently wrapped with Megan Fox and Bill Murray, Rourke noted that it was “Terrible. Another terrible movie. But, you know, in your career and all the movies you make, you’re going to make dozens of terrible ones.” Fair enough!

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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Health
200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.

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