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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

The Surprising Link Between Home Alone and Straw Dogs

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

While it's a beloved (and family-friendly) holiday classic, there's still no denying that Home Alone's self-appointed vigilante, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), kind of resembles a tiny towheaded version of mathematician David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) from Sam Peckinpah's 1971 film Straw Dogs. Both characters resolve to defend their abodes at all costs, and in the absence of real weapons rely on makeshift ones to fend off their respective intruders.

Unlike lightning, great ideas can—and often do—strike Hollywood twice. But Home Alone wasn't created in a vacuum, production designer John Muto told Slate in 2015. In an interview, he acknowledged parallels between the two films, saying that, “I kept telling people we were doing a kids version of Straw Dogs."

Home Alone is notably less graphic than Straw Dogs, the latter of which contains sexual assault and plenty of blood. There aren’t any visible injuries in Columbus’s film, aside from a burn here and a glue-coated feather there. Still, Muto says he initially thought that a few of Home Alone's more cringe-inducing physical stunts wouldn't make the final cut. They did, thanks in part to Julio Macat, the film's director of photography. He, himself, appreciated physicality in movies, and gave Harry and Marv's painful comeuppances the go-ahead.

If you think about it, Sumner’s boiling oil and bear trap aren’t too different from Kevin’s tar and hidden nails, aside from the fact that they result in body counts. So no, you weren’t delusional if you ever compared the two films. Even still, you should probably refrain from pointing these similarities out to those who can't get enough of Home Alone’s fuzzy happy ending.

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holidays
40 Years Later: Watch The Johnny Cash Christmas Show
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Over the course of his career, Johnny Cash made a series of Christmas TV specials and recorded a string of Christmas records. In this 1977 TV performance, Cash is in great form. He brings special guests Roy Clark, June Carter Cash, The Carter Family, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison ("Pretty Woman" starts around 23:50), Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers. Tune in for Christmas as we celebrated it 40 years ago—with gigantic shirt collars, wavy hair, and bow ties. So many bow ties.

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Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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