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The Exquisite Corpse Project

The Wonderful Chaos of The Exquisite Corpse Project

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The Exquisite Corpse Project

“When we were together, amazing things happened. Things involving ghosts, and talking snakes, and past that my memory gets a little hazy.”

Imagine that you were given five random pages from the middle of a film screenplay to read. Let’s use The Wizard of Oz, for example. You read the five pages and you read about someone named Dorothy walking along some yellow path and she has a talking scarecrow with her for some reason and some person or thing named Toto. And that’s really all you know, because you haven’t read anything else besides those five pages, so you don’t know who she is or where she came from or where she’s going.

Then, imagine you were tasked with writing the next 15 pages of that screenplay. How would you know what to write—what to have the characters say or how to have them relate to one another? That’s the exact dilemma that the writers of The Exquisite Corpse Project faced in penning this highly-entertaining film.

The backstory goes like this: Back in 2010, five members of a New York City comedy troupe named Olde English were drawn together by one of its members and tasked with writing an entire film in this oddly collaborative way.

The idea was based on the group game called the Exquisite Corpse game, wherein three different people draw a different part of a human being without having any idea what the other two have drawn. As you might imagine, the completed drawing is bound to end up looking rather odd and disjointed, but is also very likely to be interesting and pretty funny to look at.

The movie made with this same philosophy is no different. It is certainly odd, definitely interesting and very funny.

The thing that really makes the film work so well, though, is the fact that documentary footage of the writing process is cut brilliantly into the film. There’s footage of the project idea being pitched to the group. There’s footage of each of the writers reading and reacting to the preceding five pages they’re allowed to read before they write their portion. And there’s a ton of takes of them criticizing one another’s writing style. After all, the writers are all comedians themselves, so they have plenty of fun ripping each other’s work.

The writers are forced to make wild guesses on who exactly the characters are, which leads to some entertaining results. Plus, one of the writers is so bitter with the project that he intentionally makes his section as bad as possible. The result is a film that starts out as a cool, Wes Anderson-ish story of a young married couple, then morphs into a bright-eyed tale of creepy optimism, then into one of those Fatal Attraction-style insane female tales, then into sort of a sci-fi ghost story, and then, well, it all sort of becomes indescribable after a while.

Each of the writers’ approach to the film would have made a really entertaining film on its own. But together they make an even more oddly-satisfying product that I highly recommend.

The film is the first piece of original content distributed by Splitsider Presents, and is available through their site for only $5. For that price you can stream it straight off the site and/or download multiple copies of the film to your computer. Here's a preview:

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John Gooch/Keystone/Getty Images
The Time Douglas Adams Met Jim Henson
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John Gooch/Keystone/Getty Images

On September 13, 1983, Jim Henson and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams had dinner for the first time. Henson, who was born on this day in 1936, noted the event in his "Red Book" journal, in characteristic short-form style: "Dinner with Douglas Adams – 1st met." Over the next few years the men discussed how they might work together—they shared interests in technology, entertainment, and education, and ended up collaborating on several projects (including a Labyrinth video game). They also came up with the idea for a "Muppet Institute of Technology" project, a computer literacy TV special that was never produced. Henson historians described the project as follows:

Adams had been working with the Henson team that year on the Muppet Institute of Technology project. Collaborating with Digital Productions (the computer animation people), Chris Cerf, Jon Stone, Joe Bailey, Mark Salzman and Douglas Adams, Jim’s goal was to raise awareness about the potential for personal computer use and dispel fears about their complexity. In a one-hour television special, the familiar Muppets would (according to the pitch material), “spark the public’s interest in computing,” in an entertaining fashion, highlighting all sorts of hardware and software being used in special effects, digital animation, and robotics. Viewers would get a tour of the fictional institute – a series of computer-generated rooms manipulated by the dean, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and stumble on various characters taking advantage of computers’ capabilities. Fozzie, for example, would be hard at work in the “Department of Artificial Stupidity,” proving that computers are only as funny as the bears that program them. Hinting at what would come in The Jim Henson Hour, viewers, “…might even see Jim Henson himself using an input device called a ‘Waldo’ to manipulate a digitally-controlled puppet.”

While the show was never produced, the development process gave Jim and Douglas Adams a chance to get to know each other and explore a shared passion. It seems fitting that when production started on the 2005 film of Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would create animatronic creatures like the slovenly Vogons, the Babel Fish, and Marvin the robot, perhaps a relative of the robot designed by Michael Frith for the MIT project.

You can read a bit on the project more from Muppet Wiki, largely based on the same article.

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NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in October
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NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Netflix subscribers are already counting down the days until the premiere of the new season of Stranger Things. But, as always, in order to make room for the near-90 new titles making their way to the streaming site, some of your favorite titles—including all of 30 Rock, The Wonder Years, and Malcolm in the Middle—must go. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in October ... binge ‘em while you can!

October 1

30 Rock (Seasons 1-7)

A Love in Times of Selfies

Across the Universe

Barton Fink


Big Daddy


Cradle 2 the Grave

Crafting a Nation

Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest

Daddy’s Little Girls

Dark Was the Night

David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates (Season 1)

Day of the Kamikaze

Death Beach

Dowry Law

Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief

Friday Night Lights (Seasons 1-5)

Happy Feet

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison




Love Actually

Malcolm in the Middle (Seasons 1-7)

Max Dugan Returns


Million Dollar Baby

Mortal Combat

Mr. 3000

Mulholland Dr.

My Father the Hero

My Name Is Earl (Seasons 1-4)

One Tree Hill (Seasons 1-9)


Picture This

Prison Break (Seasons 1-4)

The Bernie Mac Show (Seasons 1-5)

The Shining

The Wonder Years (Seasons 1-6)


October 19

The Cleveland Show (Seasons 1-4)

October 21

Bones (Seasons 5-11)

October 27

Lie to Me (Seasons 2-3)

Louie (Seasons 1-5)

Hot Transylvania 2

October 29

Family Guy (Seasons 9-14)


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