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14 TV Commercials Made By Famous Movie Directors

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It takes a long time for movies to be written, produced, shot, and edited for audiences—that's why, on average, a director releases a movie every two to three years. In between, some notable directors keep in practice by making commercials for high-end name brands including Chanel, Gucci, and Apple Computers. Here are 14 TV commercials from famous movie directors made between film projects.

1. Wes Anderson: American Express

Before the release of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Wes Anderson was part of the “My Life, My Card” campaign for American Express. Anderson was the star of the commercial as it followed him throughout a tough shooting day. Actor Jason Schwartzman and cinematographer Robert Yeoman were at the center of the commercial, along with Wes Anderson’s trademark other meticulous indie quirks.

2. Wes Anderson: Stella Artois

Anderson also did a commercial for Belgian beer brewery Stella Artois with co-director Roman Coppola. This commercial also featured Anderson’s attention to detail in re-creating French spy movies from the 60s.

3. Spike Jonze: Gap

In 2005, Gap commissioned Spike Jonze to make a new commercial that would signify a new era with the San Francisco-based clothing line. What they received was Jonze’s penchant for being anti-establishment and a prankster. Gap was not happy with the TV ad featuring Gap employees and customers destroying one of their retail stores. The commercial ran in a few cities before Gap pulled the plug.

4. David Lynch: Sony PlayStation 2

After the release of Mulholland Dr., David Lynch made an eerie commercial for Sony PlayStation 2 that resembled many elements of his 1977 film Eraserhead. While it’s unclear what this had to do with video games, Lynch made an unforgettable commercial with disturbing imagery.

5. David Lynch: Clearblue Pregnancy Test

Not all commercials are works of art. Lynch directed a surprisingly straightforward commercial for a pregnancy test. Was David Lynch really passionate about the Clearblue Brand or was the paycheck that good?

6. Sophia Coppola: Christian Dior’s Miss Dior

After the production of her upcoming film The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola directed a TV commercial for Miss Dior that premiered during the 85th Academy Award ceremony. The commercial starred Natalie Portman and captured Coppola’s trademark cinematic whimsy. The ad also featured singer Grace Jones’ rendition of “La Vie en Rose.”

7. Darren Aronofsky: Yves Saint Laurent

After the release of Black Swan in 2010, Darren Aronofsky directed a commercial for Yves Saint Laurent’s La Nuit de L’Homme cologne featuring French actor Vincent Cassel, who appeared in the aforementioned film. The commercial showcased Aronofsky’s ability to play with color and light, which reflected Cassel’s playful nature. The TV ad also features the music of Clint Mansell, a longtime Aronofsky collaborator.

8. David Fincher: Apple

In 2009, David Fincher directed a commercial for Apple’s new iPhone 3GS titled “Break In.” Fincher worked with one of his collaborators, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, who did the photography on Fincher’s 1999 film Fight Club.

9. David Fincher: Nike

Released the same year he was nominated for an Academy Award for directing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fincher directed a TV spot for Nike that featured NFL superstars LaDainian Tomlinson and Troy Polamalu. Much like the film he was nominated for, the Nike commercial “Fate” followed the life cycle of two pro football players (only in chronological order, unlike Benjamin Button).

10. Sergio Leone: Renault 18 Diesel

In 1985, after the release of his last film Once Upon a Time in America, Italian director Sergio Leone made a commercial that showcased the power of the Renault 18 Diesel car. The commercial also showcased Leone’s love for the Western genre and featured music from collaborator Ennio Morricone. The commercial would be the last film Leone would direct; Leone died four years later in 1989.

11. Joe Wright: Chanel Coco Mademoiselle

In 2011, British director Joe Wright made a commercial for the Chanel Coco Mademoiselle fragrance, starring actress Keira Knightley—who appeared in Wright’s literary film adaptations Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, and Anna Karenina. The ad is seductive, sexy, and highly stylized. It also features singer Joss Stone’s cover of “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”

12. Michael Bay: Victoria’s Secret

Director Michael Bay is known for making movies that are excessive and loud. So when he was commissioned to direct a commercial for Victoria’s Secret, why not feature one with motorcycles, explosions, and numerous leggy supermodels in lingerie. The shoot also served as a casting call: When actress Megan Fox didn’t return to the Transformers film series, the 48-year-old director replaced her with Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whitely in the movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon, who appeared in this commercial.

13. Ridley Scott: Apple Computers

Considered the greatest commercial of all time, Ridley Scott’s “1984” TV ad for Apple Computer's new Macintosh premiered during Super Bowl XVII in 1984. While the Orwellian ad only aired once, the commercial was very influential on future marketing and the overall success of Apple in the early 80s. Apple CEO Steve Jobs chose Ridley Scott to direct the TV spot because of the dystopian future world he created in the 1982 film Blade Runner.

14. Baz Luhrmann: Chanel No. 5

In 2004, Australian director Baz Luhrmann made a commercial that reunited him with his Moulin Rouge! star Nicole Kidman. Based on the William Wyler film Roman Holiday, the 3-minute commercial was lush, flamboyant, and decadent. The commercial was so extravagant that it’s considered the most expensive commercial of all time with an estimated budget of a whopping $33 million. Nicole Kidman received $3 million for appearing in the ad.

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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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Stephen Missal
New Evidence Emerges in Norway’s Most Famous Unsolved Murder Case
May 22, 2017
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A 2016 sketch by a forensic artist of the Isdal Woman
Stephen Missal

For almost 50 years, Norwegian investigators have been baffled by the case of the “Isdal Woman,” whose burned corpse was found in a valley outside the city of Bergen in 1970. Most of her face and hair had been burned off and the labels in her clothes had been removed. The police investigation eventually led to a pair of suitcases stuffed with wigs and the discovery that the woman had stayed at numerous hotels around Norway under different aliases. Still, the police eventually ruled it a suicide.

Almost five decades later, the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK has launched a new investigation into the case, working with police to help track down her identity. And it is already yielding results. The BBC reports that forensic analysis of the woman’s teeth show that she was from a region along the French-German border.

In 1970, hikers discovered the Isdal Woman’s body, burned and lying on a remote slope surrounded by an umbrella, melted plastic bottles, what may have been a passport cover, and more. Her clothes and possessions were scraped clean of any kind of identifying marks or labels. Later, the police found that she left two suitcases at the Bergen train station, containing sunglasses with her fingerprints on the lenses, a hairbrush, a prescription bottle of eczema cream, several wigs, and glasses with clear lenses. Again, all labels and other identifying marks had been removed, even from the prescription cream. A notepad found inside was filled with handwritten letters that looked like a code. A shopping bag led police to a shoe store, where, finally, an employee remembered selling rubber boots just like the ones found on the woman’s body.

Eventually, the police discovered that she had stayed in different hotels all over the country under different names, which would have required passports under several different aliases. This strongly suggests that she was a spy. Though she was both burned alive and had a stomach full of undigested sleeping pills, the police eventually ruled the death a suicide, unable to track down any evidence that they could tie to her murder.

But some of the forensic data that can help solve her case still exists. The Isdal Woman’s jaw was preserved in a forensic archive, allowing researchers from the University of Canberra in Australia to use isotopic analysis to figure out where she came from, based on the chemical traces left on her teeth while she was growing up. It’s the first time this technique has been used in a Norwegian criminal investigation.

The isotopic analysis was so effective that the researchers can tell that she probably grew up in eastern or central Europe, then moved west toward France during her adolescence, possibly just before or during World War II. Previous studies of her handwriting have indicated that she learned to write in France or in another French-speaking country.

Narrowing down the woman’s origins to such a specific region could help find someone who knew her, or reports of missing women who matched her description. The case is still a long way from solved, but the search is now much narrower than it had been in the mystery's long history.

[h/t BBC]