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55 Unfortunately Unfinished Films

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This week, John Green looks at 55 films that never made it to the silver screen.

Don't miss an episode—subscribe here! Images and footage provided by our friends at Shutterstock. Here's a transcript courtesy of Nerdfighteria Wiki: 

Hi, I'm John Green. Welcome to my salon. I think my brother is about to get eaten by an anglerfish.

1. This is mental_floss on YouTube, and did you know that Martin Scorsese wanted The Clash to star in Gangs of New York before Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day Lewis came along?

So The Clash are like "Ugh, should I stay or should I go?" and then they went, or alternately, The Clash were like "I'm sorry Martin Scorsese, but London is calling." Those are both terrible jokes.

Anyway, that's the first of many tragically unfinished films that I'm going to tell you about today.

2. Both David Lynch and David Cronenberg were in consideration to make a Star Wars film, although they both claim they were only approached and nothing further.

3. And speaking of David Lynch films that were never made, Ronnie Rocket was going to be his follow up to Eraserhead. The film is about a three-foot tall man who runs on electricity. In a 2013 interview, Lynch said that he's still open to making the film actually but fears not being able to find the industrial-looking locations that he needs. He claimed, quote, "Cheap storm windows and graffiti have ruined the world for Ronnie Rocket."

4. There are a couple films that couldn't be completed because a star died halfway through the shooting process, like the 1962 movie Something's Got to Give which would have starred Marilyn Monroe.

5. Then there's the famously cursed adaptation of the great comic novel A Confederacy of Dunces, like when John Belushi was cast in 1982 and then died. The role was given to John Candy in 1994 and then he died. The same thing happened to Chris Farley in 1997. What is this?! And then, a few years later, Will Ferrell hoped to star in the film but it still looks like it's not going to get made. I-I-I-I … just don't die Will Ferrell. I need you in Anchor Man 5.

6. In 1989, Sergio Leone, the director of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, had secured 100 million dollars in financing for his war epic Leningrad, which he wanted to star Robert De Niro, but Leone died mere months before they were going to start production.

7. And then there's the Disney version of The Little Prince, which was written by none other than Orson Welles and storyboarded in the 1930s, but then never made.

8., 9., 10. There have been a few other Disney movies that weren't ever made, including an adaption of Roald Dahl's The Gremlins, a 2009 remake of Yellow Submarine, and Uncle Stiltskin, the story of Rumplestiltskin.

11., 12. Orson Welles also tried to adapt Heart of Darkness into a film before it was rejected by his studio, RKO, for being too costly. He then attempted to take on an adaption of The Smiler With a Knife starring Lucille Ball which RKO also rejected. The film he then made? Citizen Kane.

13. When Orson Welles died, by the way, he left behind 300,000 feet of his film for Don Quixote which, if you've ever actually read Don Quixote, is kind of hilarious … but also tragic. Like the book! He made several films for the sole purpose of financing Don Quixote and he spent, like, 30 years trying to shoot and complete the project in locations like Mexico and Spain and Italy, but then he died.

14. The 1990s saw the development of a Tim Burton-directed and Kevin Smith-written film titled Superman Lives starring none other than Nic Cage as Superman and also, presumably, Clark Kent. Luckily for our imaginations, photos of Cage as Superman have leaked online; unluckily, copyright law prevents us from showing them to you.

15., 16. The were a bunch of Spider-Man movies that were never made, like a fourth film in the Tobey Maguire series which started and stopped production, and also a 1991 film written and directed by James Cameron in which Spider-Man lives on an ocean liner and is 8 feet 6 inches tall and blue.

17., 18., 19., 20., 21., 22. Other abandoned superhero movies that made it into various stages of production and planning include Plastic ManThe FlashGreen ArrowDazzler, and Silver Surfer, which I would still like to see, but that's nothing compared to a 1965 Batman versus Godzilla movie that was never made. I mean, how can you not revive that project, Hollywood? You made the movie Battleship. Please, if not that, at least 1964's Godzilla versus Frankenstein. Here are some other A-number-1 ideas, Hollywood: Batman versus Duckie, Batman versus Boba Fett, and Batman versus Dwight Eisenhower.

23. Bradley Cooper was supposed to play Lucifer in an adaptation of John Milton's Paradise Lost but the special effects budget was too large for Legendary Pictures to handle. I mean, there are a lot of flying angels in that book, so production stopped in 2012.

24. Francis Ford Coppola spent almost 20 years planning a science fiction film titled Megalopolis. He even had 30 hours of footage filmed, specifically sequences of New York pre- and post-9/11. A major part of the film's plot involved rebuilding New York, so after 9/11, Coppola stated, "I feel as though history has come to my doorstep." But then production got too expensive and stopped later in 2001, so … so much for history at your doorstep, dude.

25. Before David Lynch adapted Dune, Alejandro Jodorowsky wanted to make the film in the 1970s starring some people you might have heard of, like Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, and Salvador Dali. He also wanted Pink Floyd to provide the soundtrack. Again, finances made the film impossible, which makes sense because apparently Dali insisted to be paid 100,000 dollars per hour. Ridley Scott was later hired to make Dune but had to drop out so we got David Lynch, which, you know, not so bad.

26. Mel Gibson was preparing to make an adaption of Fahrenheit 451 in 2006 but you may remember that there were other things going on in Mel Gibson's life in 2006 so, yeah, no.

27. In 1971, Stanley Kubrick wrote to a colleague, "It's impossible to tell you what I'm going to do except to say that I expect to make the best movie ever made." We'll never know if he was right because Napoleon never went into production. The budget was around 5.2 million dollars, which is like 33 million dollars in today's terms, and the Romanian Army had even agreed to be in the battle scenes because, you know, this was pre-CGI, but Kubrick couldn't get the money together. He continued to work on the movie until his death in 1999, collecting one of the world's largest and most comprehensive archives about Napoleon inside of his own house, and the saga isn't over yet because Steven Spielberg hopes to make a miniseries from Kubrick's script.

28. Ridley Scott planned to adapt Cormac McCarthy's violent novel Blood Meridian but later stated, "I think it's a really tricky one, and maybe it's something that should be left as a novel," which, by the way, is what many hundreds of movie producers have said about my book, Looking for Alaska, in the last ten years.

29. David Fincher worked for a long time on a remake of the film Heavy Metal but he couldn't get it made because it was impossible to get a studio to sign on to an R-rated cartoon. Even after famous directors agreed to join the project like James Cameron, Zack Snyder, who directed 300, and Gore Verbinski, who directed Pirates of the Caribbean, Fincher still couldn't get the project going.

30. Peter Jackson hired Neill Blomkamp to direct a movie based on the Halo video game series, but the movie stopped production in 2006, and then Jackson and his partner felt really bad for Blomkamp so they helped him get 30 million dollars for his passion project which would become the Oscar-nominated District 9. Moral of the story? Get Peter Jackson to feel bad for you because then he'll find you 30 million dollars.

31. In the 1960s, John Lennon desperately wanted to play the role of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. Paul McCartney would be Frodo, Ringo Starr would be Sam, and George Harrison would be Gandalf and no, I am not making this up. Stanley Kubrick was approached to direct the movie but J. R. R. Tolkien owned the movie rights to his book and wouldn't allow the project to happen. You monster! I'm just going to put this out there right now: If the boys from One Direction want to star in a movie version of An Abundance of Katherines, I'm in.

32. You guys remember when I compared One Direction to the Beatles? Sometimes movies do get made but then they're lost, which is what happened to Quentin Tarantino's 1987 film My Best Friend's Birthday. Only 36 out of 70 minutes of the film survived due to an unfortunate fire.

33. What?! They're both boy bands! Alright, another example of an apparently lost film is Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales, one of Richard Pryor's first movies. For years, it was rumored that Pryor's wife destroyed the film's negatives, never to be seen again, but then in 2005, a Director's Guild film retrospective apparently featured clips from the movie, so is it gone forever? We still don't know.

34. One of the biggest mysteries to film fans is The Day the Clown Cried from 1972. Jerry Lewis directed and starred in his first serious film about a clown entertaining children in a Nazi concentration camp. The film was finished but Lewis never allowed it to be released for still unknown reasons.

35. In 1977, the great Roger Ebert wrote a screenplay for Who Killed Bambi? which would have been similar to the Beatles' films but starred the Sex Pistols. Two days into filming, production stopped due to financial problems but Ebert posted the screenplay on his blog in 2010.

36. Before Martin Scorsese made the Oscar-nominated film The Aviator starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Nolan wanted to make a Howard Hughes biopic starring Jim Carrey. After the fact, the director said, "Luckily, I managed to find another wealthy, quirky character who is orphaned at a young age." That character was, of course, Batman.

37., 38.  Sylvester Stallone has been trying to direct a movie about Edgar Allan Poe for like, forever; he envisions Robert Downey, Jr. in the lead role, but if they can't pull that together, might I suggest that they revive the unfilmed script Sherlock Holmes and the Vengeance of Dracula. I mean, imagine the possibilities, and also the GIFs, and further, the GIFs.

39-55. And we return to the salon to finish up with some movie sequels which were in various stages of planning and production before they were canceled, like E.T. 2: Nocturnal FearsAirplane IIIGladiator 2Mrs. Doubtfire 2Elf 2: Buddy Saves ChristmasChinatown, which was supposed to be the start of a trilogy, The Breakfast Club sequel, Forrest Gump 2: Gump and Co.Brazzaville, the sequel to CasablancaBasic Instinct 3, directed by—who else?—Sharon Stone, Seriously Dude, Where's My Car?—Mark, that one isn't real, is it? Seriously Dude, Where's My Car? How did that not get made? We just gotta put that one on Kickstarter and it'll get done like that. Then there's Kill Bill: Volume 3Twister 3DGremlins 3DThe Matrix 4Napoleon Dynamite 2, and Beetlejuice 2: Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian.

Thanks for watching mental_floss here on YouTube, which is made with the help of all of these nice people. Every week, we endeavor to answer one of your mind-blowing questions. This week's question comes from James Whiteford who asks, "Can sharks really smell blood a mile away?" Yes. In fact, according to National Geographic, great white sharks can smell blood from 3 miles away and that, my friends, is why you don't swim in the ocean—well, and also because it contains a lot of mussel sperm, as you'll no doubt remember from that video. You can submit your mind-blowing questions and comments. Also, let us know which of these films you would most like to have seen. I know already, it's Seriously Dude, Where's My Car?

Thank you for watching and as we say in my hometown, don't forget to be awesome.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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Animals
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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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iStock

It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

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